Ratepayer raises several issues with Hagensborg Water District

We need a board that will embrace community participation, increase transparency, be financially accountable and look progressively

Dear EditorCC: The Members of HWD,

Soon after our water district decided to begin a Point of Entry (POE) pilot project along with a substantial increase in our parcel tax, I decided to become more informed as to the workings of the HWD. I have thoroughly researched the POE and other issues and consulted with authorities and specialists in water treatment. As a result of this research I became alarmed as a wrong decision could be financially devastating for the ratepayers.

Unfortunately, my research and questions have not been welcome by most members of the board and there has been a severe attempt to silence my participation. I have been so disturbed by the repugnant treatment towards a ratepayer and volunteer, I felt there was no option but to publicly state my concerns before our upcoming AGM May 25th where two trustees are up for re-election.

As far as the POE pilot goes, we are seven years into a two year pilot project.  It has been over 4.5 years since our last public meeting dealing solely with the POE. So far, our district has spent $150,250.15 (includes $70,975.00 well) on the pilot for a handful of units. I have been pressing the board since last October to hold such a meeting to review with members the current status of the pilot and allow for feedback.

For over two years our Board has known that this project is unaffordable and unsustainable and has not taken this fact to the ratepayers until recently. On March 30, 2017 Ken Dunsworth and I gave a board approved presentation on water treatment in general. At that meeting I provided, after the presentation by Ken and I, additional information that I had personal knowledge of in regards to the POE, conversion to CCRD and other issues directly related to the points made in the presentation. Some members at the meeting have told me they were appreciative to receive that information. Since that meeting I was severely chastised by our Chair in writing and given an ultimatum for presenting those details. In addition, the Chair referenced very personal tragic matters of my life, which have hurt me deeply. I respectfully responded to this criticism and had hoped for a private conversation with the Chair, but he did not reply.

After much consideration, and because this relates to HWD business, I decided to take my concerns to Trustee O’Neill who at the last regular monthly meeting (April 24/17) presented two letters of protest and put a motion forward for the resignation of our Chair.  According to Mr. O’Neill the trustees saw nothing wrong with the vicious treatment of one of its ratepayers; hence he received no support for his motion.  He immediately left the meeting when the motion failed.

Other issues are concerning as well. Since last October I have seen new policies and bylaw that deter public participation, do not appear to align with government rules or our Letters Patent, and appear to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The board has refused to amend these documents.

I am further concerned that letters from the public are often placed in camera, when they are not in camera issues. I have just been told that our newly adopted March minutes (along with 4 of my letters as far back as November) will not be attached to the website until after the AGM and it may be as late as June. I find this unacceptable as our CFO has been trained on the website since our CAO stepped down.

It is my hope that at the upcoming AGM the community will request a substantial reduction or complete moratorium of our parcel tax. This community has been outstanding in its financial support and the board to date has collected close to ½ million dollars of our hard earned dollars.

Furthermore, the HWD is determined to hang onto its Improvement District status when provincial and federal governments have once again recently confirmed unwillingness to fund our much needed improvements. It should be noted that Water Canada’s 2016 budget has proposed billions of dollars toward infrastructure and other projects over the next 10 years. Do we continue to shoulder the financial burden with little chance of improvement or do we research changes in order to access the billions of dollars available? I don’t presume to have all the answers, but I am certainly willing to look at all the questions.

We need a board that will embrace community participation, increase transparency, be financially accountable and look progressively towards the future. This district needs substantial improvements at a staggering cost to ratepayers and I believe it is time that all issues be readdressed and considered.

Respectfully,Diane Skelly