Greater Vernon politicians will spend much of the new year establishing the next steps after voters overwhelmingly turned their backs on a water plan.
During November’s civic election, a majority of voters refused to approve borrowing $70 million for water system upgrades, including filtration of the Duteau Creek source.
“Some were upset over the $70 million or using treated water on agricultural land,” said Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor.
“Some may be upset over the source.”
With the Interior Health Authority and the provincial government mandating water quality regulations, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee must find a model that meets the guidelines but is acceptable among taxpayers.
“There is no way this will move forward without public support for borrowing. We have to build public support,” said Garlick, adding that a peer review of the plan’s technical components could be possible.
Financing will also be investigated.
“Do we pay for it through water rates alone or through taxation,” said Garlick, who would also like to see a discussion with the provincial government over water quality standards.
“We have to look at risk management of water utilities. Several utilities in Kelowna are also struggling. We need a conversation about what is a reasonable risk and how do we manage that risk.”
Beyond water, 2015 will also be a time for the District of Coldstream to focus on infrastructure, whether it’s roads and drainage or buildings and equipment.
“We need to make sure everything is set up for long-term financial sustainability,” said Garlick, adding that there is a need for targeted funding.
“We don’t want reserves to be slush funds for future councils.’
And now that Coldstream is responsible for maintenance and operation of most parks in the district, a long-term parks plan will be developed.
“We want to be very realistic in our expectations,” said Garlick.
Construction of a sports facility continues at Okanagan College through GVAC, and Garlick admits the project is taking longer than expected.
“With a skilled labour shortage, they (contractor) were having a hard time hiring and keeping good people,” he said.
“We’re staying within budget on the building and we’re looking at (how to fund) the bleachers. We want to offer everything that was put forward in the referendum.”
Garlick isn’t concerned about a shift in direction at the City of Vernon although there is a new mayor at the helm.
“We go in with the same idea of co-operation and what’s best for the area,” he said.
“I’m very positive about how the relationship will move forward.”