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Straight to the source

Parksville city council has decided to take a more direct approach in its search for grant money to help cover the costs of a new water system.

Mayor Chris Burger expressed frustration over the city’s inability to access federal grants that are usually available in March. “Here we are in July and we still don’t have a process to apply to,” said Burger. “This is the federal government’s job to return those (tax) dollars to us.”

The city, in partnership with the regional district’s electoral area of Nanoose Bay, have been forced to build a new system by an Island Health decree that deems all groundwater must be treated. The Englishman River Water Service — Parskville and Nanoose Bay are the principals members — have a plan to build a $37 million system, but the city doesn’t know exactly how much it will have to borrow to cover its part (about $27 million) of the bill.

If a referendum question on borrowing is going to appear on the Nov. 15 ballot for Parksville taxpayers, its wording must be sent to the province by Aug. 5. Burger said he has “every confidence” the city will receive funding for the system. “No one has said we aren’t getting any funding,” said Burger. “But unfortunately, it’s very late.”

At city council’s meeting Monday night, Burger suggested the city send a letter directly to federal and provincial ministers, MPs, MLAs and “even the damn prime minister.” The letter would ask for clarification and confirmation on grant money available from senior governments for this project, with the expectation it would be the traditional one-third, one-third, one-third formula (municipal, provincial, federal).

The motion to send such a letter passed unanimously, but not before councillors expressed their frustration about deadlines for the referendum question and Island Health’s deadline on water treatment.

“It’s so important we get some word back before the (referendum) deadline,” said Coun. Al Greir. Coun. Marc Lefebvre expressed his frustration with the “unelected” officials and board members of Island Health. “They simply said ‘thou shalt do this, period’, ” said Lefebvre. “We didn’t have a choice. We weren’t asked. We were told what to do.”

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