CMN readers who are serviced by the Hagensborg Waterworks District should know that a bylaw passed at our monthly board meeting on October 24 will result in significant increases levied on their 2017 property taxes.
Additionally, a very significant grant program partnering the federal government with the province, called the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, was presented to the HWD board at a previous meeting in the hopes that an application could be successfully made. This near $400 million program would fund up to 83% of infrastructure costs, and represented a rare, if not once-in-a-generation opportunity for HWD to leverage funds already collected from ratepayers in order to complete pipeline replacement throughout the district as well as develop a water treatment system.
Sadly, the trustees were informed that the provisions of this grant program would require the transfer of HWD assets to the CCRD. Therefore, our application was withdrawn without further consideration. Readers will recall that at each of the last two HWD annual general meetings, I urged the trustees to initiate discussions with representatives of the CCRD in order to identify governance options available that would allow HWD the greatest degree of autonomy while remaining under the umbrella of our local government. I urged that such preliminary discussions take place because I anticipated that several pre-election grant programs would be announced prior to next spring. I also requested at least one public meeting to update rate payers on this and a number of other pressing issues so that they might provide new direction to their trustees.
While provincial pre-election “goodies” have in fact materialized as predicted, not a single discussion between the CCRD and representatives of HWD has taken place. I confirmed this with CCRD CAO Darla Blake today. She reassured me that the CCRD has been, and remains willing to work with HWD in whatever way it can be of the most assistance to rate payers. She also offered an example of just how HWD might remain a commission of the CCRD with a high degree of autonomy, by directing me to a section of the BC Local Government Act 2015 (division 9) dealing with Local Community Commissions. HWD would still elect its own trustees and function as an independent board.
I fully understand that HWD ratepayers have previously expressed a strong desire to remain fully independent of our local government, the CCRD. Perhaps it is time that we reconsider this view; we can choose to pay increasingly exorbitant water fees with no reasonable prospect that we can achieve any of our stated goals. Or we can sacrifice a portion of that independence for access to funds that will allow us to fully address our infrastructure needs in a timely fashion. Instead of paying among the very highest total water fees in the province, we can expect that significant financial benefits will accrue from working together as a community. A number of other BC Improvement Districts have already chosen this option and partnered with their local municipality or regional district. The deadline for applications under the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund is November 23, and there is still time for HWD ratepayers to speak to your trustees if you feel that an application should be made to this fund. There might well be several million reasons to do so!
Sincerely,Kevin O’NeillTrustee, HWD