Two North Okanagan communities have taken the first of what will be many lengthy steps toward providing water through a single water utility for its residents.
The City of Armstrong and Township of Spallumcheen have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in their joint effort to pursue a cooperative and collaborative approach to ensure that both communities are serviced with a stable, long-term supply of potable water.
“It’s a great thing for both the city and the township,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper. “But it’s only the first step. It’s like we’re in kindergarten now and we’re working towards a PhD.”
The MoU will build on existing relationships and agreements for the long-term supply and distribution of potable water.
There are 14 water districts in the township and the city supplies water to six water districts and about 35 single residences.
The agreement will recognize the specific mutual benefits and opportunities, such as grant applications, to be achieved from working together, something Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown said the province was happy to hear about at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver.
“We have a letter we’re sending off to the province that will include letters of support from Interior Health and (Shuswap MLA) Greg Kyllo,” said Brown when asked if the province had committed any funds towards the new agreement.
“Until they actually get our request and know what we want money for, they won’t answer. All we could say at UBCM was that the two communities signed the MoU. We were feeling the province out, getting them ready.”
A number of Spallumcheen residents receive water from the city but manage the distribution themselves.
The MoU allows for opportunities like receiving senior level infrastructure grants through a joint community submission.
It also could lead to an improved and enhanced water supply through the potential development of new wells or other sources of supply.
“This is not a short-term fix, but rather an opportunity to plan for a long-term partnership,” said Brown.
In answering questions on the MoU from Okanagan Advertiser owner and publisher – and former Spall Mayor – Will Hansma, township administrator Greg Betts said the MoU is similar to the proposition of Greater Vernon Water consolidation, which took into account issues such as agricultural water and existing agreements.
Taking part in the MoU is voluntary, and Betts said the goal of the long-term strategy is to make sure everybody has the water they currently have for the same or less price and the quality.
“What we’re saying is we finally have a willing partner (Armstrong) that will talk about all of the issues,” said Betts.
“I’ve met with the water districts to lay out in broad terms what the understanding is about, and they know if there are any deal stoppers, we’ll talk about what they are.”
A copy of the MoU will be available on the communities’ respective websites: www.spallumcheentwp.bc.ca or www.cityofarmstrong.bc.ca.