It would have been easy for Thursday’s meeting on Greater Vernon water to be a disaster.
After all, a majority of voters turned down borrowing $70 million in November for capital works, and flaws in the master water plan and the Regional District of North Okanagan’s communications plan were clearly evident. Also, politicians turned on each other, with some who had endorsed the plan and the referendum then announcing they would vote no against the borrowing?
Thursday’s meeting of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee could have become nothing more than a finger-pointing session.
But, instead, everyone at the table was respectful and there was a frank and open discussion about what went wrong with the referendum and why there wasn’t voter buy-in.
This time around, there appears to be genuine interest in having the public involved in developing a master water plan right from the get-go, and that is critical as it will ultimately be residents who foot the bill.
However, there also needs to be some onus placed on any residents who become active in the process. They must accept the fact that upgrades will be required unless the provincial government abandons its water quality standards. Residents or any citizens’ groups must also remain in contact with GVAC as it is the agency responsible for water and not municipal councils.
There is no magic bullet and establishing a master water plan that is financially responsible and meets provincial guidelines will take considerable time and compromises.
But based on Thursday’s meeting, a positive outcome is achievable.