Who would have thought that a bit of rain could cause so much damage and long-lasting trouble for a little desert community?
The unexpected flash flood of May 23 is what Mayor John Ranta remembers most about 2015: “The overwhelming large impact of the devastating flooding caused by a rain storm on May 23,” he says. “That has pre-empted the thinking about the rest of the year because it was such a horrific event where nobody in the village was unaffected by it.
“I think the significant thing to me is that the community has demostrated a type of resilience that probably only occurs in small communities where interpersonal relations build over a period of years so that you can actually feel empathy for your neighbour and go and help them out when some disaster strikes.
“It’s not something I would recommend to any community going through a disaster to bring the community together – there’s got to be better ways to do it, but in my opinion, if there is a positive coming out of the disaster that has befallen us, it is the fact that we’re a stronger community that recognizes that we can overcome whatever challenge is thrown our way.”
Challenges came in more ways than the flood. Both of the Village’s senior staff members gave their notice. CFO Gayle Olsen was gone before the flood and CAO Dan Plamondon left a few days after.
“Every time there’s an administrative change, through no fault of the administrator, there are issues that fall through the cracks,” he says. “It takes some time to recollect and re-establish the direction with a new administrator, so it does create some challenges.”
However, less than a month later, the residents turned out to celebrate the annual Graffiti Days.
“While it was a little bit challenging and probably more challenging than I know for the Graffiti Days committee, they pulled it off and the community looked like nothing had ever happened,” he said.
The same weekend Belkorp and Metro Vancouver held the official commissioning ceremony for the landfill gas utilization project which is now producing hydro power.
“It’s been a challenge to get that project completed,” he said, but now it’s one of only two station in BC that converts landfill gas into hydro electricity.
There may be an opportunity for the Village, he says, once Belkorp’s partnership with Metro Vancouver ends this year, to participate in revenues from the reciprocating engines by agreeing to purchase a share of the engines.
Most of the work of staff and council in 2015 has been directed at the recovery of the Village from the disaster
“We had a workshop in November and went through the budget,” Ranta says. “At the end of the day based on the impact of the flood, you wind up with a 2016 budget that’s $246,000 in the ditch.”
The Council is looking for ways to come up with the money to balance the budget and have identified serveral, from projects that can be cancelled or defered to revising landfill revenues.
The Village is having a town hall meeting on Jan. 25 at 7 pm in the community hall to discuss the budget and hopes that the public might have insight on how they can come up with more money.
Council is still focussed on their landfilling industry and the new 20-year Extension that is just waiting for the province’s final okay.
“This year I want to see the completion of the Operational Certificate for the Landfill Extension,” says Ranta. “That’s of critical importance to us. I’m optimistic that within six to eight weeks, completion will be announced.”
The Certificate gives the Village and Belkorp the opportunity to market the landfill’s capacity to potential customers, like the municipalities who are currently facing higher fees to ship their waste to the U.S.