Posted on: August 25, 2016

Clarifying the City Hall versus Water Infrastructure Debate

August 25, 2016

Clarifying the City Hall versus Water Infrastructure Debate

With the City’s first Water Quality Advisory currently impacting Lakeview Water System users, the City of West Kelowna wishes to address the question of the need to invest in water infrastructure in the context of the current Referendum on spending to build a new City Hall.

To be clear, water infrastructure improvements have been carefully planned and budgeted for. Investments in water infrastructure are primarily funded by those who benefit from the improvements rather than by the general tax base.

“Council is hearing from residents who are understandably concerned with the quality of their water, although it is our first advisory and the turbidity levels are actually still relatively low. They are asking that water improvements come before our new City Hall,” says Mayor Doug Findlater. “But what people should know is that we have already planned for the improvements to this system, with a new treatment plant at the Rose Valley Reservoir slated for construction 2022 or earlier, with planning starting next year. This infrastructure improvement is already in our Capital Plan, as are all the other water system improvements listed in the Water Master Plan, which was adopted in 2013 after extensive public consultation.”

The funding for water system improvements does not come from the same sources as the new City Hall would. Funding is primarily from users of the system. Westbank Water System users, for instance, have been paying much higher water rates for many years to support the construction of the Powers Creek Water Treatment Plant. Built in 2007 at a cost of $18.1 million, the plant employs state-of-the-art, multi-layered treatment to produce water with a turbidity of less than .3 NTU throughout the year. The users of this system continue to pay much higher rates than other West Kelowna residents to repay the $11 million debt needed to supplement the costs of construction.

The City will also apply Development Cost Charge funding towards the construction of a new treatment plant and has been very successful in the past in securing provincial or federal grant support for infrastructure projects like this.

“Council understands the concerns people are raising about our financial situation, including questions about our use of our Reserves,” says Mayor Findlater. “But we have put a great deal of effort into establishing a solid financial footing, including securing our Reserves and getting a handle on the multitude of infrastructure needs we face. We have prepared many Master Plans and established a Minimum Reserve Policy to ensure our financial future is secure and our capital needs are met. In fact, Council delayed building a new City Hall in the early days of incorporation for this very reason.”

The City does not have one emergency reserve, but rather a number of reserves established to mitigate current and future risks, ensure stable tax rates and demonstrate financial commitment to long range infrastructure and master plans.

For more information on the referendum, the City Hall/West Kelowna Civic Centre Project and the Water Master Plan, visit www.westkelownacity.ca .

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