Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Macnabb Water Authority




Never mind that he’s only one director at Greater Vernon Water. 
The North Okanagan world revolves around the Macnabb Principle!

At least that's the way it seems...like a one-man show.

Of course, regional district bureaucrats are thrilled that Macnabb—the director they appointed to head their own water committee—conveyed their thoughts verbatim.

“We have a water utility to operate; we have a Master Water Plan” he stated petulantly during today’s Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meeting at North Okanagan Regional District.

Barely containing his irritation that there had been a Motion and Second (Spiers and Kiss) for a moratorium on the six projects contained in the Master Water plan—until further discussion could evaluate perhaps more prudent options—he stated that the $70 million referendum was only to borrow the money…nothing else (referring to the craftily-worded referendum question). 
 
One reason for the motion was because one of the plan’s projects—Raising Aberdeen Dam $6.4 million—was scheduled for 2022 during the Master Water Plan's "communication" with the public scarcely four months ago.  Yet plans are apparently underway to move that project to this—or next—year. 
 
The consensus of the grassroots Citizens for Change to the Master Water Plan is that the public denied the referendum because the public denies the water utility the six projects of the Master Water Plan – indeed the plan itself.

Will the public raise a hue and cry when they learn of Macnabb's refusal to consider other directors' points of view?

Macnabb's water authority still isn't happy with only a 2 per cent increase in rates this year.  He had wanted a minimum of 4 per cent, but would have loved 10 per cent.  This despite there being $15 million dollars in "reserves".  

Source: Coldstream Councillor G. Kiss

Nobody seems to care that the North Okanagan still pays double what residents of Kelowna pay.
 
Least of all director Macnabb...his residence gets water from a well.
Not all his constituents are on a well.  Wonder if they think he is representing their opinion.

"He's a disrespectful bully," offers Kia, "treating his peers with disdain."

You got that right.

Free window stickers...make your own
 



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You Voted "No" in the Water Referendum


But don't leave it at that.
Or everything could fizzle, with same ole' same ole' rearing its ugly head soon.

Attend the North Okanagan Regional District this Thursday -- March 5th -- at 8 a.m.
(yes, it's early) but it's important.

Yes, it's important for you to see your elected politician--and how they vote--in a request for a moratorium on all spending by RDNO on the six water projects from the failed referendum.

The grassroots group "Citizens for Change to the Master Water Plan" agree with the way you voted when you said no to spending $70 million. 

They've committed to helping you.

Will Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members accept the Motion on a moratorium?
Listen to their discussion if the Motion is accepted.
And blame them if the Motion for a moratorium fails.
Because it means they've waffled and deferred to the bureaucrats...again.

Go see whether you should have voted "no"
when your politician was wanting your vote.


"Just be there, and bring a neighbour," barks Kia.


Consider it a Performance Appraisal of your politician...



Kissing Business Good-Bye ... 22.5% Water Increase


And the revenue they contributed to coffers.
Some of them for 40 years.

Obviously bureaucrats and many unelected officials on "appointed committees" have never heard of Economic Value Added.
Their actions prove it.

The water authority has taken a run at us before...regularly in fact since the first run in 2005.

One of the more noteworthy runs at six commercial businesses that--because of the nature of the businesses using a large volume of water outdoors--was for a 50 per cent rate increase, "learned" in May, 2013.

The six businesses that use large quantities of (supposedly non-potable--but unchlorinated isn't available) water are Atlantis Waterslides, Art Knapp's Nursery, Swan Lake Nursery, Hillview Golf, and Highlands Golf, as well as Tekmar Industries on Silver Star Road.

As an Okanagan Basin Water Board official was recently reported saying:  "they should just suck it up and pay...they're business."

Obviously because we're all making gobs of money, as quasi-socialists believe.

Buoyed with support from yet another unelected group (OBWB), the Regional District bureaucrats with approval from the Greater Vernon board will by the year 2019 entirely eliminate the Non-Potable Commercial Irrigation category.  What had years ago been accurate classifications -- developed to reflect the various customers' water usage -- would by the year 2019 realize the vision of former disgraced Vernon mayor Sean Harvey when he banged his fist on the wooden RDNO boardroom table (I was present to witness that) and stated "Farms pay 6 cents, all others pay 70 cents" (per cubic metre of water). 

Now in 2015, the net result is that a 22.5% irrigation rate increase is slated for 2015 for we six businesses, which is 60 per cent of the catch-all category called Non Domestic and Mixed Use.

That's not all, either.

In 2016, our category will be increased yet again, to result in we six businesses being at 70% of the catch-all category.

In 2017, we'll be increased yet again, to be at 80%;
In 2018, at 90%;
By 2019, we will be at 100%. 

The question bureaucrats and unelected committee officials haven't asked is:
  Who among these businesses will still be in operation?

Who indeed...

Word has it that Hillview Golf Course--faced with a ~$10,000 increase in 2014 over their ~$33,000 irrigation invoice from 2013, will drill a well this spring for their irrigation source.  Their valley-bottom location and very high water table ensures they'll succeed in finding sufficient irrigation water.  And it won't be chlorinated...or filtered!

"That's $43,000 that won't be going into the water authority's coffers," states Kia, adding "this seesaw play of attrition will see companies fail which leads to everyone else having to make up the difference.  That's called 'economic value docked'."
 

Because bureaucrats NEVER reduce "required revenue" to match what's happening in real life.


North Okanagan water rates:
2015 Water Rates (draft), issued to GVAC meeting of March 5, 2015 for approval.
Note:  actual rate sheets begin on page 16, but you're encouraged to read pages 1 through 48. 
Note:  the Non-Domestic Mixed Use category hasn't previously existed.






Saturday, February 28, 2015

Regional District Bullies


Noun and verb.
Yup.
Directors and the public haven't got a chance against bureaucrats' manipulation of facts and figures.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directors must want the "private fire hydrant" issue to simply go away.  Almost as much as the water engineers.  And the owners of those hydrants.

So directors need to be forgiven for being fooled...yet again.

Let's face it...seeing the same "report" preamble, often comprising nine or 10 pages--meeting after meeting--with spurious and, yes, unsupportable added comments from staff just makes eyelids droop.   Directors couldn't be blamed for thinking "Wake me up when it's over".
Besides, directors have bigger fish to fry, especially with the failed water referendum.

But if the history of the privately-owned fire hydrant issue is any indication of how untransparently the regional district manages critical issues, the result more accurately resembles a choreographed stage production than procedural fairness in policy.

I'll try to help uninitiated readers catch up...before their eyelids slam shut:
Skip the history if you know the background.

"Private unmetered fire hydrant" at Highlands Golf on Buchanan Road
History:  During the Highlands Golf development permit in 2000/2001, a requirement was to install a fire hydrant on the property "x" feet from the clubhouse front door.  That required Highlands, on the north side of Buchanan Road, to pay the water authority to provide a new pipe under Buchanan Road to the new fire hydrant from the 300 mm concrete pipe located on the south side (Coldstream Ranch fields side) of Buchanan Road.  And a "hot tap"--meaning that Duteau Creek water couldn't be shut off to the North Okanagan while the 6-inch fireline pipe connection was made.  The 6-inch fireline pipe would terminate at Highlands' fence, and it was our responsibility to construct the remainder of the pipe and the fire hydrant.  Fair enough.  I was instructed of the fire hydrant specs, and that the hydrant did not require metering.  All costs were paid by Highlands (I think it was ~$26,000 but nobody recalls exactly).  The bonus to the water authority, according to NOWA's--formerly VID--officials, was that they would receive a "core sample"--from the bore into the 300 mm pipe--that they had never before had access to.   Dig day for the road crossing was abuzz with activity...backhoe, numerous water authority workers with shovels, several vehicles from the hot-tap company--a private contractor from the Lower Mainland--flag persons west and east and, easily, five or six NOWA pick-up trucks carrying numerous supervisors with cameras in hand to record the process "we've never done before".   In a matter of hours it was over.  The next day, the Highlands contractor installed the fireline extension on our land--a distance of approx. 50 feet from the fenceline terminus of NOWA's fireline--and installed the hydrant.  The requisite NOWA inspection, before lines and connections could be closed, occurred when a supervisor attended with an hourly worker.  They took measurements and inspected connections, after which the hourly worker tested the new hydrant by attaching a large diameter hose.  The spray of high-volume water was dispersed by the worker so that the golf course's newly seeded #9 fairway and teebox didn't lose grass seed.  The supervisor recorded findings, stating "ok" to us, and our contractor closed the ditch and fire hydrant while the NOWA supervisor witnessed the entire process to completion.  The NOWA supervisor added that the 300 mm mainline core sample evidenced their pipe was in good condition "after all these years".

Highlands Golf complied with the remaining DP requirement of landscaping along the golf course roadfront and clubhouse inspection after which we received permission to open the commercially-zoned business.

Years passed with only an annual invoice to remind me we even had a fire hydrant (fortunately...a fire never occurred) noted as "private fire hydrant annual tax" from NOWA (oddly, one year from the District of Coldstream).

In 2002 the amount was $225 if I recall correctly.  Hydrant taxes for successive years were:

2003 through 2006 = $275.00 annually,
2007 and 2008 = $290.00 annually,
2009 = $306.00,
2010 = $333.54,
2011 = $383.80,
2012 = $454.38.

Discovery of Procedural Unfairness:
During 2013, I discovered (quite by accident) that another (unnamed) business with a privately-owned fire hydrant "had never received an invoice for hydrant tax...ever...and we've been open longer than Highlands Golf".  A short while later, yet another business stated the same comment to me.  The annual Water Rates were available on the RDNO website.   I recall seeing a table of rates that were headed (something like) that included, among other sizes, "Fire hydrant unmetered 150 mm" with the next year's rate being approx. $470, after which the next year's sheets stated $560!!  Also noted several years earlier on the rate sheets was something like "charge to fire departments" for public (community) hydrants which were all unmetered (naturally).

A reader, at this point, would probably wonder why I was banging my head against the wall known as bureaucracy.
Simple...I have a responsibility to my business to control overhead, and this fire hydrant tax was beginning to burgeon out of control; certainly, out of any logic for the increases.

So, believing Highlands Golf had been charged the annual taxes in error, I sent an invoice on September 17, 2013 to the Regional District of North Okanagan in the amount of $3,382.72, comprising "charged in error, annual utilities invoice, private unmetered fire hydrant."  The reply I received was that the invoice would not be paid as I had not been charged in error.

It is important to note that the charge to fire departments listing in RDNO's rate sheets ended around 2012 or perhaps 2011.  But the fact remains that what I had seen previously as a charge from the water authority to each community/fire department for each of their fire public hydrants was no longer listed.  Also important is the fact that it took approximately one year of enquiries to discover the following:  that each community/fire department is charged "x" dollars from the water authority for each public unmetered fire hydrant.

After several bureaucrats ignoring my request for the "x" amount which had disappeared from the rate sheets, I was rewarded when I asked Coldstream Councillor Maria Besso to look into it.  She herself expressed surprise that it took a long time--and several requests of an official--to get the amount.    It was $133.00!

So, while the 2014 invoice to me for an unmetered private fire hydrant was to increase to $560.00, each community was charged $133.00 for each unmetered public fire hydrant...and those fire hydrants received annual maintenance from GVW, which I did not.

I appealed to the District of Coldstream that a private hydrant is infrastructure in their community, just as public hydrants are.  Everyone benefits from infrastructure, not just the hydrant owner.  That fell on deaf ears, despite proof from these two relevant arguments:

  • The construction of additional public hydrants on Buchanan Road, one west and one east of Highlands (both constructed after mine), have considered mine "as infrastructure", as distances from and between all three have proven.
  • Fire insurance companies provide a discount (up to 50% in some cases) when a residence is located "within 300m (984.252 feet) of a fire hydrant".  No statement on whether it's private or public.
A quick look at Google Maps shows Highlands Golf, smack in the middle of this map.  Notice the proximity of the neighbour's home to the west (left) and that of the neighbour's home to the east (right).
https://www.google.ca/maps/@50.2181468,-119.1667864,1766a,20y,41.18t/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Yet Coldstream's then-newly-hired bureaucrat came up with:

  • "the private hydrant does not cover any additional residential properties".  Abject nonsense! Obviously deduced from sitting at a desk versus getting into a vehicle and actually measuring distances.  The fire department would attack a fire at my west neighbour's residence with MY hydrant, located 60 metres from his house, versus the public hydrant west of him which is 300 metres distant.  That's proof my private hydrant provides fire protection to the community, not just myself.

  • The Coldstream bureaucrat's report contained comments about "leaking and unauthorized use like driveway cleaning".  Bloody nonsense!  Driveway cleaning?  Ridiculous!  In 13 years it's never been used for anything!  Unless they're thinking of our 2000/2001 inspection by officials after the hydrant was constructed and the operator sprayed water all over the place!  That is the sole time it was ever used! And presumably public hydrants aren't leaking either as they were also inspected by GVW. 
  •  "Even the existence of any hydrant becomes political", the Coldstream bureaucrat also noted in the Report.  Huh?  What is that a reference to?  That Coldstream might remove a hydrant?
I'm sure I can be forgiven for uttering something really profane after that balderdash!

Yet another straw was about to break the proverbial camel's back:  Around that time, Greater Vernon Water issued a notice to the irrigating public that they called a "watering days correction".  Their reason?  "to promote fairness" according to the water authority.

Fairness?
Only when it's slanted in the water authority's favour!

So...Coldstream wouldn't declare my private fire hydrant as infrastructure, which would have in my view made it eligible for the $133 public hydrant rate.

So the next step was to donate my private fire hydrant to them, at no cost, and provide them with a statutory right-of-way to it (it's 4 feet from the edge of my driveway, 50 feet up from the fenceline).
They said "no thanks", so I offered to donate it to the regional district where Greater Vernon Water "resides".  They said they weren't interested because they only supply water to hydrants, that they don't own any hydrants.   (Coldstream municipality had said Coldstream doesn't own the fire hydrants, that GVW owns them)!

So in September of 2014, I appealed to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directors for procedural fairness (of the tax $560 versus $133).  Then-director and former Vernon mayor Sawatzky asked after my "presentation" last September..."what do you GET for that tax?"  My reply:  Nothing, no servicing, nothing.  Bureaucrats first reported there were 17 private fire hydrants, several weeks later, there were suddenly 123 private fire hydrants, from the same bureaucrats!  It's worth mentioning here that the letter from GVW engineers to Highlands Golf--declining reimbursement of my $3,382.72 historical payments--did thank me for bringing to their attention that some private fire hydrant owners had not been charged, and that the omission would be 'corrected', with invoices sent out to those missed by the end of 2014! 

Directors weren't aware their communities were being charged $133 for each and every public hydrant within their jurisdiction, and didn't seem surprised that the rate sheets no longer included listing the charge.  GVAC chair, Juliette Cunningham, after hearing my presentation, stated "it (the tax) certainly seems exorbitant..."

So the water engineers were up next...having had a month or so since the Agenda was created to formulate their responses.

Are you sitting down?
Preferrably with a stiff drink to get you through pages 38 to 54 of their "Report(s)", which I've summarized below under a catchy title of my own making:

Bureaucrats Grasp at Straws:
- A draft Greater Vernon Water Private Hydrant Policy No. ENG-WTR-004 was produced, for GVAC approval.
- Two meetings (September and October) led to bureaucrats stating that committee members had asked for a policy and procedure to monitor annual maintenance and fire hydrants and fees charged by other communities.  If my recollection is more accurate than bureaucrats', I believe committee members actually asked why there was such a disparity between the $133 and $560 charges and what other communities charge.
 
So here's where the stiff drink will assist in trying to follow bureaucrats' "reasoning":

- Only Fire departments are permitted to use fire hydrants without a permit.  Makes sense.
- Other private hydrant use requires a permit, with use including backflow protection and a meter during hydrant operation.  Permits were to be obtained from Vernon, Coldstream or GVW and must give operators permission to access the property, and install and remove the backflow protection and meter box.  A fee would be required for rental of the backflow protection and meter box.  No mention of what the rental fee--nor permit itself--would be, yet directors are to consider this policy without that information?  
- The "city" operator will record the water usage and the customer account will be charged for the usage.  Using an official "operator" lets the utility know where and for what water hydrants are being used, to "manage for demand spikes".   No mention of what the consumption rate will be, yet directors are to consider this policy without that information?
- Hydrants that are metered will still require a permit, but will not be charged for the hydrant consumption.  Presumably because any meter has a base rate without using any water?
But all this "permitting" requires staff time, monitoring the use, and to ensure the hydrant is ready for fire department use afterwards.  This, despite GVW stating they want no responsibility in case of liability...in case they forget annual tracking/maintenance.  Yet they do not recommend increased monitoring of hydrant use, (despite wanting to manage for spikes), however if additional staff time is needed, costs to the utility would have to be recovered.
- Owners are required to maintain hydrants according to BC Fire Code and NFPA and private insurance requirements, and that--to reduce liability in case GVW forgets to track inspections--maintenance or specific conditions are between the owner and the fire insurance company, with no responsibility accruing to GVW.  My insurance company places no conditions on hydrant; they're glad I have one!
- If any connection is made to a private hydrant without a permit (other than Fire department use), backflow protection or meter, the owner could be liable for fine(s), and confiscation of equipment.  Some people might want to know what the fines are; perhaps Directors too?

Tarring Everyone With the Same Brush:
My comments are added in bold text:
- GVW reports that hydrants are often used for flushing pipes, construction and maintenance work.  They call that "mixed uses".  They allow one filling station for water hauling trucks, and city operators to use hydrants for street cleaning, as well as contractors to apply for a permit to use a fire hydrant and they recommend to strata complexes to use them for flushing of lines.

- "Illegal Use":  They state their operators have seen private hydrants being used for water hauling and street cleaning of parking lots and private roads, presumably hired by the private owner, as well as contractors they hire to flush their pipes!   Even after their operators have reported illegal use, GVW have done nothing about it, so everyone now gets tarred with the same brush.  Illegal use!  Oh, for heaven's sake!  I wouldn't even know how to turn the hydrant on!  No revenue is collected from unmetered private hydrants...same with public hydrants!!  "However, GVW does collect an unmetered fire main rate in lieu of water use fees charged directly".   Finally, a reason for the $560 annually!  But if it's "in lieu", then during an annual permitted inspection where a water meter is placed, a dollar amount would NOT be charged for inspection consumption?  Or would the $560 tax be decreased by the amount "in lieu"?  Charging for both is duplication and unfair!
Agreed that illegal use is theft!  They state in 2013 an illegal use caused 4 frozen hydrants in the BX and one that was then unavailable during a fire.  What did GVW do about the theft, since they had a Hydrant Tampering Fee in place?  Apparently nothing!  No fine, no "policy" change until 2015 if it occurred in 2013!

- Damage to private hydrant equipment often goes unreported, with no post-use servicing.  Huh?  

- Impractical to restrict private fire hydrants to fire department use as the owner is required to flush lines and perform annual maintenance, and potentially other uses.  Huh again?  Other Uses?  Flush lines?  Nobody ever used ours for anything except the initial test to see if it worked.

- "Currently most unmetered private hydrant use is unaccounted for...(illegal use / leaks)"However, where there is more than one dwelling per lot or the service exceeds 50 metres, a meter vault will be required (2014) at owner's cost...means that new private hydrants are metered at the fenceline.  This, despite fire department complaints that meters can jam/restrict flow during a fire emergency!  No wonder GVW is worried about liability!  GVW wants approval of recommendation #1 that if a property has a permanent meter box, that a temporary one not be required.  This would place considerable hardship on owners, expensive equipment placed where there is no electrical connection... to keep meter from freezing!  Impossible!

-Hydrants must be colour coded based on flow and identification number stamped on hydrant, and hydrants may serve a dual purpose as a blow-off for flushing.  But isn't "blowing off for flushing" illegal use, despite GVW recommending that for strata complexes?

-The cost to supply water to an unmetered fire main is unknown.  The fee supports lifecycle costs to maintain and replace the piping infrastructure required to support fireflow standards set for fire fighting.  A 40 year lifespan would require $250 annually for a 150 mm main.  Others (non-domestic) are charged $400 annually because "consumptive costs" are considered part of the fee to reflect that the hydrant provides unmetered fire flows.  Another report stated they didn't know the costs to supply water to a private hydrant!  Huh?  Why wouldn't the cost to supply water (fire service) to a private unmetered fire main be the same as it costs to supply water (fire service) to a public unmetered fire main?


Hopefully the reader is still awake after this summary...OMG, that was a summary?  Yup!

So is it any wonder that Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directors--who are faced with 80 to 90 page agendas each month--can't wait to get onto the next topic?

Hopefully, directors will see through the smoke 'n mirrors of GVW's gouging, and remain interested in providing procedural fairness (where GVW has not) for private fire hydrant owners.

"I bet the Ombudsman of B.C. would be interested in declaring the hydrant as infrastructure," offers Kia, "considering your neighbours receive a fire insurance discount too."

Perhaps, Kia, perhaps. 

And perhaps Directors will wear pink anti-bullying shirts to the next meeting.
Because they're being bullied too.



"Be grateful you weren't charged a tax on each tree planted as landscaping was also a Permit condition," asserts Kia.


Related info/sources:
The 84 page Feb. 26/15 agenda for GVAC, with fire hydrant issue pages 38 - 54 here.
And Coldstream Corner stories here, and here, and here, and here.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Jim Bodkin's Compelling Letter


Better late than never to reprint this February 8th, 2015 Letter to the Editor of the Morning Star; it's important to record it.  Many, many residents in Greater Vernon share Jim's opinion.


"Water woes leave resident steaming"

I believe the resounding defeat of the master water plan referendum shows that you cannot fool all the people all the time and underscores the need for politicians to take off their rose-coloured glasses.

The provision of an adequate amount of safe drinking water is absolutely essential and elected officials need to hold those senior members of the water utility who have just been showing part of the overall water picture to the public to account.

It is ridiculous how much emphasis has been put on getting drinking water from Duteau Creek whilst largely ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people in Coldstream and Vernon get their water from the Mission Hill waterworks that draws its water from Kal Lake.  Doing so distorts the water reality.

I suspect a lot of people currently getting their drinking water from Duteau Creek could be switched at reasonable expense to the Mission Creek water that comes from Kal Lake.  Problem is, from the perspective of those with vested interests, that would really show what a white elephant Duteau Creek is as a source of drinking water.

"...amazes me ... that our elected officials ever approved spending so much to make water from a nonsuitable source drinkable in the first place." 

Initially, we were told that we needed to spend millions on the Duteau Creek waterworks because the province would not give us enough water rights to take water from Kal or Okanagan Lakes to meet our needs.  That drum is no longer being beaten with much enthusiasm perhaps because it's(sic) credibility has been undermined by the fact that other communities bordering the lakes have water licences permitting them to draw what they need from the lakes.  It's hard to believe that the province would deny Vernon what it has granted to Kelowna, that is unless we fail to make a good case that we need the water licences.  The horrendous cost of turning Duteau Creek water into something drinkable makes a darn good case, does it not?

Another thing the senior people at the water utility have told us is that Interior Health has ordered us to filter our drinking water.  Quite frankly, that's pretty hard to swallow.  I think it far more likely that Interior Health has said that our drinking water needs to meet certain standards and left it up to our water gurus to figure out how to meet those standards.  I'm thinking too that Interior Health has few if any concerns about the bulk of our drinking water that comes from Kal Lake.  Duteau Creek water is another matter entirely.  Despite the millions of taxpayer dollars poured into making it drinkable, Duteau Creek water, especially at the time of spring runoff, has too many suspended particules that diminish the efficacy of chlorination or ultraviolet treatments.

"...fudging terms of reference can hamstring outside experts into being unable to recommend what they otherwise would do if not so fettered."

I'm no expert but I am a firm believer that you do not have to be a chef in order to criticize the cooking.  What amazes me is that our elected officials ever approved spending so much to make water from a nonsuitable source drinkable in the first place.

"Give the raspberry to any so-called experts who expound taking water from a source that is so initially unsuitable for making it drinkable that it will never be affordable."

Now, our elected officials need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more economical plan.  They also need to do so with their eyes wide open.  It is common knowledge that fudging terms of reference can hamstring outside experts into being unable to recommend what they otherwise would do if not so fettered.

Over to you, our newly elected officials.  We need you to sort this out for us.  An adequate source of drinking water is a fundamental need, having it done at affordable cost is a fundamental need too.  Kindly roll up your sleeves and get on with the job.  Give the raspberry to any so-called experts who expound taking water from a source that is so initially unsuitable for making it drinkable that it will never be affordable.

It upsets me that letter(sic) such as this needed to be written.  For goodness sake you elected officials, do you not realize that your constituents rely on you to determine how many beans make five on a provision of a need so fundamental as enough safe drinking water?  Shame on your predecessors, shame too on those of you who held elected office whilst some of the profligate water decisions were made over the past several administrations."
                         Jim Bodkin


"Anybody still believe that the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee that 'oversees' GVW is in charge? Or is it the other way around?" muses Kia.

Especially since the only new member of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee is Akbal Mund, Vernon's new mayor. 

As Jim Bodkin says, shame on you.

And whoever heard of WN news?
Seems GVW's turbidity report/switch to Duteau made that news:  http://article.wn.com/view/2015/02/21/Notice_to_Greater_Vernon_Water_Customers_Water_Remains_on_th/ 

Huh?  
The WorldNews (WN) Network, founded in 1995 & launched online in 1998. Now it has over 200 million pages indexed covering news on a vast range of subjects.
WN is completely free and offers a broad range of media content from a varied and extensive range of sources. A global leader in online news, WN Network presents news from more than 800 reputable sources including mainstream providers BBC, CNN, Reuters, Washington Post, etc to more regional and localized sources The Independent, The New York Times, delivering unparalleled coverage on a vast range of subjects.

"Obviously Kal Lake turbidity was 'submitted' to get top billing on WN news,"  mumbles Kia.
Sheesh!
Sheesh also to some of the public "uses" up at the Duteau sources.
 

OBWB photo.  Lots of things occur up in the "drinking water swamps."


 



 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kal Lake and Duteau Creek Turbidity Numbers


Numbers are indeed available, despite numerous comments that only Kelowna posts their numbers.

Here's the link to turbidity:  http://www.rdno.ca/index.php/services/engineering/water/greatervernonwater/notifications

That's one to bookmark!


Roiling the Waters


Abject bullshit.
More like aiding and abetting.

For the first time in residents' recent memory, Kal Lake water customers have been switched--during late winter--to water from Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant.

Seems the milfoil harvester's work, this time, has stirred up sediments.
Wasn't it always policy that the harvester is not permitted to work within "x" distance from the water intake/shore? 
The Okanagan Basin Water Board--which runs the harvester--surely has such a policy in place.

Or maybe this is a thinly-veiled aiding and abetting (by OBWB) of the Greater Vernon Water folks in underscoring the importance of two water sources (that are switchable during "emergencies"), whereas the fastest growing city in British Columbia--Kelowna--has the Okanagan Lake source. 

And isn't it interesting that RDNO has the turbidity numbers (in order to force the source switch), yet resists transparency and doesn't post the numbers daily on their website (as Kelowna does).

Plus "there's a lot of dirty water coming from Coldstream Creek..." says an RDNO official.  

Dirty water in late February? 
Bullshit.
Even during this mild winter.

Here are two photos of Coldstream Creek on both sides of Ricardo Road in Coldstream (north of Coldstream Lumber and Burnco). 

My cheap camera doesn't do the clarity of this Coldstream Creek water justice.

On the west side of Ricardo Road, the water appears crystal clear...no swirling dirty sediments.  Photos taken 4:30 p.m. February 25, 2015.  Nothing floating, nothing murky, no foam from "loading"...nothing but clean water.


Bloody convenient, residents are saying.
Especially the residents who voted "no" in the $70 million water referendum in November, 2014.


And no-one's sure how many years we've seen the milfoil machine toiling just offshore from late Fall, all without water quality problems at the Kal Lake intake.

Milfoil harvesting on Kalamalka Lake.  (Photo OBWB)



"The switch will help increase the number of domestic users from Duteau...from the usual 4 per cent," scoffs Kia.

Like we said, thinly-veiled.

Dirty water?
Dirty tricks.

Monumental Waste Continues


And it's everywhere, even in towns where there aren't the two proverbial nickels to rub together.

Take Spallumcheen, for example.
Sure, they have an industrial park but that's about it.


Their 5,000+ residents are predominantly farmers whose land is chiefly within the Agricultural Land Reserve, engaged full-time.
Hence, precious little into coffers.

Not long ago an elected official blurted out during a Regional District meeting that Spallumcheen Township "is flat broke", while the community is lauded as the oldest and largest municipality in the Southern Interior area of the province.

Yet even this community wastes money.

At issue is their "need" for a transportation plan, so bureaucrats say, identified in the township's community development plan.

So they've got a $50,000 budget for the project.

Eyebrows are sure to be raised when residents read that a Victoria firm is going to produce the transportation plan.
A Victoria firm whose employees likely have to check Google Maps to see where  Spallumcheen is even located.

What a lost opportunity!

The transportation plan would be a great project for a residents' committee!
You know...people who actually live there, people who travel its corridors when they take their produce or farm animals to market.   People who know where improvements could be made.  People who possess common sense.  Farmers!

Those residents could meet two or three times with a municipal roads supervisor, with a staff person to moderate the meetings. 

Presto!
A transportation plan that has buy-in from both residents and staff, that can be proudly presented to Mayor and Council.

And the coffee and submarine sandwiches for three lunches for 10 people would come in at $300.00, versus the $50,000. in Spallumcheen's budget.

"If you don't use it (the budget), you'll lose it."
from a supervisor, during my career. 

 So I guess coffee and subs are out.                   


Then there's the Regional District's offer to recognize with an award of $10,000 individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations, or schools whose Waste Reduction idea rises to the top of the pile.

Sure, in the scheme of things, it's not a lot of money, but it is money.
It's 10,000 bucks.
Whether it's being awarded by RDNO, or the Okanagan Basin Water Board, or the university...or gas tax funds, or just blown in on the wind, it's money that came from residents' wallets.  

Where was the RDNO--and the $10,000 to spend on a good idea--when residents cried foul at the new Multi-Material Recycling program (affectionately renamed Mini Material, as it accepted far fewer recyclables than the previous bluebag program)?  

Where was the RDNO--and the $10,000 to spend on a good idea--when seniors stated they could not safely carry the new rigid plastic containers down apartment stairs or icy stairs and sidewalks of residences?  

Oh yes...the RDNO was one of 18 regional districts in the province that would each receive one million dollars from the new, supposedly industry-sponsored program.

Many seniors simply stated that items would once again go back into garbage bags, to the detriment of Mother Earth.

"The regional district didn't issue a peep of protest to help seniors, and went off to bury their million...but not in the compost," Kia suggests.


One day there'll be a monument to the most wasteful level of government.

I can contribute two nickels.
 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Half-Price Gas


Yup.

Just returned from another late winter getaway to my favourite place to get away to:  Wenatchee, Washington state.

This year's visit took place a week later than last year.

And, yes, you guessed it.  Regular gas is half the price of ours.


Forget the smaller U.S. gallon, forget the currency exchange rate, forget the smoke 'n mirrors about our fuel being on a "spur" line (away from the main).

Rather than tons of text, let's tell it in photos:

Credit/visa/debit cards are at a 10 cent premium over the listed price.  This was just south of Omak, WA.  Most prices in the Okanogan Valley, including Wenatchee, varied by no more than seven cents a gallon from prices shown above.


What's (happily) missing in the above?  (Time's up!)  Parking meters!  Parking meters were removed several years ago in order to support local business (the old downtown...away from where Wal-Mart and Target set up shop...just like in Vernon!)
Free parking for 3 hours has led to a busy downtown with shoppers and pedestrians sauntering along the sidewalks.  No-one rushing to plug money into a meter...people browsed the shops at their leisure.  What did Vernon do?  Vernon doubled the parking meter price!
Alternate streets are one way, with excellent signage.  It's absolutely incredible how much traffic can be moved on streets that are four lanes in one direction, with parking on only one side.  Wenatchee's downtown (easily three times the length of Vernon's) can be travelled in 5 or 6 minutes...the time we spend at two traffic lights here!
One downtown, one public market, conveniently accessible in a park downtown.
And lovely historical buildings, in superb condition, mix well with new construction.  Some examples follow:

Add caption
"Numeris" Performing Arts Centre
The massive civic centre building...





The whimsical is not out of place in Wenatchee.  Here, "Coyote Reading a Candy Wrapper" graces the museum stairs.
This bronze is an adjunct to the museum's popular geneology sessions.
Large public parking lots, also free, are located around the corner down any street.  Angle parking allows more parking per block than conventional systems...and yes, Wenatchee still provides bus stops every two blocks as well.



And here, one block behind main street, is more parking...free parking.  Block after block of free parking.  Tons of it.

Oh, and if you're ever in Wenatchee and need anything golf-related, visit my friend Ed Paine, owner of Golfer's Edge (on a one-way street 5 minutes south of the old downtown).




Ed Paine's golf shop, includes computerized swing analyzer and retail store.

Oh...and let's not forget that 40-pounder of alcohol at $16.50 at the Duty Free, versus approx. $35.00 in Vernon!

The weather was incredible, 60F.
The people of Wenatchee are always warm and welcoming.

There's something about Wenatchee that truly feels like home away from home.  I'm drawn there each year at this time.

"You probably missed seeing parking--and water--meters," grins Kia.

Slap of reality.