The downloading of the enforcement of the newly legislated Water Protection Act by the government to Interior Health should be a cause of concern. We should be hearing about it in the media, and maybe we will be, when taxpayers begin to realize the cost.
On Thursday, July 14 at the Community Hall, Interior Health officers and Urban Systems representatives will be presenting information about the proposed water treatment upgrade in Ashcroft. As reported, the upgrade for the new filtration system will incur a debt of several million dollars.
A good number of Ashcroft citizens oppose the Village assuming the debt. A referendum will be held on September 17, and citizens will have the opportunity to oppose or accept the borrowing bylaw authorizing the Village to borrow up to $4.1 million to build the new water treatment plant. At the same time, they will be able to elect a new councillor to fill the seat left by the resignation of former councillor Al Mertens.
We’re told that compliance with every condition of the Water Protection Act is compulsory—we have no other option—yet we have the right to have a referendum on the issue. Confused? I am. I suspect a few hundred taxpayers out there are, or will be, too.
Perhaps Thursday’s public meeting will answer a few questions. One of the biggest in my mind is, if a referendum shows that more people are opposed to the debt for the upgrade, will the order for the upgrade proceed anyway? If so, the referendum would be rendered meaningless. Worse, would the Village be charged by Interior Health with non-compliance? I have been told that would be the case.
For a health body to charge a municipality with non-compliance with every letter and condition of the Water Protection Act is extraordinary. I have my doubts.
A village with empty shops, cafés, and vacant lots, with scores of for sale and for lease signs in our downtown core, must surely indicate the Village of Ashcroft’s condition. We are told that auditors say our finances are good. We are able to maintain facilities and our payroll. We are planning to borrow the money for the 30 year loan, for an upgrade that will require further upgrade in 15 years’ time.