A Community Forum in Ashcroft on April 11 attracted more than 70 people, to listen to updates on the new water treatment plant, the subdivision servicing and development bylaw, recycling and the proposed new TNRD Eco-Depot, invasive species, and the 2019 budget and five-year financial plan.
Ashcroft mayor Barbara Roden introduced council members and explained that a Community Forum was a place for residents to learn more about topics that they had expressed an interest in or had questions about. She then introduced Peter Coxon, Project Leader and Principal of Urban Systems, who gave an update on the Village’s water treatment plant.
Coxon explained the tendering process, went through the planning and construction schedule, and used pictures of the project to explain the work going on there. He confirmed that commissioning of the plant will take place in June/July of 2019, and that completion is scheduled for July. He noted that the final negotiated price was $6,267,000, making the project under budget, and added that savings had been made by taking advantage of favourable US dollar exchange rates.
Asked whether it was a good thing that the lowest bidder (Maple Reinders) had been awarded the contract, Coxon replied that all applicants had gone through a rigorous pre-qualification process before a shortlist was produced. “We screened [the applicants] down to six. It was a two-stage process, and we’re satisfied that the bids we got were good.”
Other questions regarded what will happen to the sludge removed from the water (it is inorganic and will be re-purposed); how often it will be cleaned out and where it will go (every two months or so, and to the public works yard); how the sub-contractors were determined (by Maple Reinders, who are the project manager); and the lifespan of the membranes used in the filtration system (10 years at a conservative estimate, but probably 12 to 15 years, as Ashcroft water is usually quite clean, meaning the membranes will require fewer chemical cleans).
In answer to another question, Coxon said that commissioning the new system when the water is dirtier than usual is the best time to do so. Asked if the budget for the new plant included replacement membranes, Coxon said that it was better to wait until they were needed, so that they did not get brittle and to take advantage of advances in technology. It was noted that the plant would be overseen by members of the Village crew once it was commissioned, that local labourers were being employed in the construction work, and that Maple Reinders had been provided with names of local contractors and businesses.
Mark Hall, also a Project Leader for Urban Systems, spoke about the work on the Village’s subdivision servicing and development bylaw, explaining that the bylaw means everyone is on the same page and leads to a consistent approach when it comes to subdivision development in the Village.
“It deals with roads, sidewalks, lighting, services, etc. The bylaw hasn’t been overhauled since the 1980s, and best practices have changed. This will provide more certainty for developers, and make for a more efficient process. It has the potential to shape the future of the Village.”
He added that since the Village of Ashcroft owns everything a developer puts in the ground and has to maintain it, it’s important to ensure good quality.
In a series of slides, Hall showed how the cost of developing a building lot rose depending on the services put in place (curb and gutter; sidewalks; underground or overground services; width of road; etc.). Questions were asked about the Village’s plans to develop more housing on the Mesa, given only one road in and out and potential delays to first responders at the railway crossing (Roden answered that solutions to both issues were being investigated); whether any developers had already expressed interest (yes); if the bylaw would apply outside the Village boundaries (no); and whether or not the Village could not simply modify an existing subdivision bylaw in another community.
Hall explained that a subdivision bylaw is specific to a particular location. “They are similar, in that they have to follow some government rules, but different, because the community decides what they want [in the bylaw].”
Jamie Vieira, Environmental Services Manager for the TNRD, spoke about recent changes to recycling, explaining the need to close the mixed-stream recycling bins in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Merritt in August 2018 because of a crackdown in China on contaminated recycling from North America. “We were happily putting some recycling in, some garbage in, and shipping it all to China.”
In 2018 the TNRD had the opportunity to join the Recycle BC program. “But there were strings attached: no mixed recycling, and sites had to be attended and gated. We had to close the mixed-stream depots because we were sending that material to the landfill.
“I want to be upfront. It would have been easier to keep the [mixed-stream] depots open. The new system is harder, but we have recycling we can sell.”
He said that the recycling site at the Cache Creek landfill was always a temporary location. “The road is unsafe and terrible, and water is an issue, and the large trucks, and the drop-off.”
He noted that the proposed location for the new Eco-Depot for the region is at Boston Flats, with access off Highway 97C. “Other sites were suitable, but they weren’t available for sale or of a suitable size. And location was a big consideration: it had to have proximity to Ashcroft, Cache Creek, TNRD communities, First Nations. There had to be safe access to the site, and proximity to the landfill, and construction and site design were considerations.”
An Eco-Depot, Vieira explained, was in some ways a fancy word for a Transfer Station, and he said that it was designed as a one-stop shop for residents and small businesses to drop off all their waste and recyclable material.
“It’s not a landfill. There will be easy access, a weigh scale, and more recycling and diverting options. There will be a recycling side and a disposal side, electronic pay options, surfaced roads, and there will be new items accepted, like mattresses, light bulbs, and paints.”
He emphasized that the TNRD is at the beginning of the process of establishing an Eco-Depot at Boston Flats, with property rezoning taking place in spring 2019 and construction not slated to start until the summer/fall of 2019. “It will be operating at the earliest in late 2019/early 2020.”
Several residents of TNRD Area “I” at Boston Flats voiced concerns for the farms and residences in the area of the proposed Eco-Depot, citing lack of consultation by the TNRD, the fact that the rezoning hearing was taking place in Kamloops in the middle of a weekday, hazards from the material collected at the site, as well as what might happen in the event of flooding, and the possibility of odours and dust.
The fact that the frontage road near the proposed site is heavily used by snow-clearing trucks in winter was cited as a danger, and the possible unsightliness of such a facility near the turn-off to Ashcroft was also mentioned. One audience member asked if the TNRD had considered continuing to use the existing site, but improving the access from the road leading to the airstrip, which is paved for much of the way. Vieira replied that the TNRD had done its due diligence, and attempted to reassure questioners about the safety and security of the site.
Mike Dedels, the TNRD’s Invasive Plant Management Coordinator and the person responsible for its Invasive Plant Programs, said that people might have got excited when they heard he was “the weed guy”, adding that it wasn’t that kind of weed. He talked about invasive species and their negative impacts on the environment, stressing that prevention is key when dealing with them.
He ran through some of the prevention methods used by the TNRD, and talked about different strategies for dealing with invasive species, such as biological and chemical control, seeding, removing by hands, and using goats.
Dedels also gave information about the TNRD’s Wildfire Invasive Plant Program, which has received $990,000 in funding over three years from the Red Cross. The program will allow for the reseeding of properties within the TNRD affected by the 2017 wildfires, and also provide funding for work along highways in the area.
He noted that anyone interested in the program could contact him for information (email@example.com), adding that the TNRD is looking at aerial reseeding of 20 to 30 properties—most in the Loon Lake area—later in April 2019. In answer to one question he said that six to eight different types of grass seeds would be used, and to another query he replied that native species appear to be recovering and coming back in the grasslands.
The final speaker of the night was Ashcroft Chief Financial Officer Yogi Bhalla, who noted that this was an opportunity for a high-level look at the 2019 budget and a last opportunity for feedback. He went through some of the projects being undertaken by the Village, such as the water treatment plant, upgrades to the sewage treatment plant (which are complete), a new roof and a proposed new hot tub for the pool, updating the subdivision servicing bylaw, applications for electric vehicle charging stations, asset management (“Our assets are old but they’re in good condition”), and economic development (the grant writer at the HUB, a summer market, the Business Façade Improvement program, and the Love Ashcroft initiative). “We’re quite busy.”
He said that the proposed 2.5 per cent tax increase amounted to approximately $24 per household, then noted the increased costs of such things as Hydro, Fortis, and ICBC, and the new Employer Health Tax. “It’s a challenge to keep tax increases moderate, because we have no control over many costs.” Bhalla added that the Village had a lot of critical work scheduled for the upcoming year. “We’re spending about $5 million on projects, which is very high for a small community.”
The Village has about $4.4 million in reserve funds, 80 per cent of which are restricted. “We’re in good condition compared with others, but that’s not enough to replace our assets.”