Village plans to borrow $4 M

The Village of Ashcroft is planning to borrow just over $4 million for its new water treatment plant.

Ashcroft Council announced to a public meeting for the new water treatment plant last week that it would be borrowing $4.129 million for its share of the new water treatment plant as well as increasing frontage taxes by $1.12 per foot.

The Village will go to an Alternative Approval Process for the borrowing, the same method it used for borrowing money for the fire truck. If 10 per cent or more of the residents file their disapproval through the AAP, the Village will go to a public referendum.

About 40 members of the public attended the meeting last Thursday at the Community Hall. Council and staff were present along with Rob Fleming from Interior Health and Peter Coxon from Urban Systems.

After the scope of the project was explained, public questions ranged from how to lower costs to why water consumption in Ashcroft is so high.

Ashcroft’s drinking water is taken from the Thompson River and treated with chlorine. Known as “surface water”, Interior Health’s concerns relate to turbidity and protozoa. Chlorine only deals with viruses in the water. The water plant’s upgrade will create  proper filtration and disinfection.

Only one person in the audience questioned the need for a new water plant. Fleming, who is a Health Protection Officer for IH, replied that if education in the need for an upgrade did not convince people, Interior Health would most likely order the Village to do it.

Fleming said IH oversees 1,929 water systems in BC, and most of them are small with 14 or less connections. Ashcroft has 800. Of the 1,929, he said, 426 are currently on advisory.

He said Ashcroft’s water quality is vulnerable to environmental changes and water quality fluctuations.

“Does the Village of Ashcroft meet treatment objectives?” he asked. “No.”

“Ensuring suppliers comply with Drinking Water Protection Act and Water Sustainability Act and all associated Regulations and Guidelines – this is what I do,” he said.

Fleming said his office uses a “progressive compliance approach” – education, administrative action, and enforcement. Most of their work is done using education.

The drinking water scandal in  Walkerton, Ont. in 2000 shifted everyone’s thinking about water treatment and more money was invested in water systems. Fleming said Ashcroft’s $5.7 million grant was the third largest funded project out of 50-some that were approved.

Peter Coxon from Urban Systems described two types of water treatment plants and showed pictures of some more recent ones. He said the new plant will likely go in Legacy Park near the current pump house, and one option is to put it near the public washrooms and to combine the two facilities under one roof. The building to house the new treatment plant is expected to cost 25 per cent of the overall project.

He said the river water quality is good. It is well balanced and usually clean, making it easy to treat. It does contain protozoa, he said, which is bad for children, seniors and people who are immune compromised.

The two treatment options are  direct (sand) filtration and membrane filtration.

After Fleming and Coxon finished their presentations, Mayor Jack Jeyes announced that the Village would be going to the Alternative Approval Process for the Village’s one-third share of the project cost – $4.192 million, to be borrowed over 30 years.

For the first 10 years, he said,  it’s like a mortgage with annual interest payments fixed at $118,082 and annual principal payments fixed at $29,929 for an annual total of $198,061.

The Village will pay that by $40,000 from the Gas Tax Fund and increasing frontage rates. For a typical residence, this would mean an increase of $67 for a total of $145, starting on the 2017 property tax notice. The frontage tax is expected to raise $85,000 per year that will go towards the loan.

Some people questioned how the size of the plant was determined.

“The building will be sized based on current demands which are quite high,” said Coxon. “Ashcroft’s per capita consumption is the second or third highest in the country.”

Monty Down questioned the logic of that, pointing out that the Village has just enacted regulations to reduce water.

Jeyes answered questions about farm consumption, saying Desert Hills gets its irrigation water directly from the river.

Why is consumption so high, asked Frank Mireau.

Jeyes replied that the Village can track usage. He said consumption goes up in May and comes down in September.

He reminded the audience that this will be first year of the Village’s new water conservation bylaw. Starting in May, watering is restricted on a house number basis. Further on into the summer, depending on drought conditions, the Village may enact harsher restrictions.

Jeyes said the Village is expecting the report  from Urban Systems at the end of February and will decide after that which filtration system they want. Construction of the plant isn’t expected until 2017.