Does a ‘No’ vote in Parksville’s referendum mean a future full of boil-water advisories?

City residents are being asked to approve $5.6 million in borrowing through the referendum Nov. 21

With 11 days until the vote, the Parksville Residents Association (PRA) says it has no official position on the referendum asking people to give the city permission to borrow $5.6 million for a water treatment plant.

In fact, the PRA’s acting president could still be placed in the ‘undecided’ category as of a few days ago.

“I don’t know how I’m voting just yet,” Al Pastars said Thursday.

Assent Voting day — that’s what this referendum is officially called — is Saturday, Nov. 21. Parksville residents can vote at either the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (PCCC) or the Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church on Pym Street that day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voting will also take place in advance polls at the PCCC only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 and Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Those who want to cast a ballot must show up with two pieces of identification, one containing a name and address and the other with name and signature (examples include a B.C. driver’s licence, B.C. Care Card, birth certificate, passport). If you do not have documentation showing residency, then two pieces of identification (at least one with a signature) are still required and you will be asked to make a solemn declaration as to residency. (For questions about the voting process, call the chief electoral officer, 250-954-3070.)

The length of the voters’ list should be roughly the same as the amount of people eligible to vote during the last municipal election in 2014. There were about 9,600 eligible voters in the 2014 city elections when only 3,383 cast ballots (about 35 per cent).

Parksville’s share of the $28.3 million water treatment plant and Englishman River intake is $20.6 million.

The cost of the plant and the borrowing will be recouped mostly through an increase in water rates, which amount to an extra $10/year on the water bill of each Parksville homeowner from 2016-2024.

Parksville’s share of the $6 million in federal/provincial funding is about $4.4 million. The rest of the costs will be picked up by the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Nanoose Bay residents, who also draw water from the system. Their share will be paid through water reserves set aside years ago — there will be no referendum for Nanoose Bay residents.

Parksville/Nanoose Bay draws about 50 per cent of its annual water supply from the Englishman River.

Island Health has decreed that all surface water (from rivers, for example) must be, by the end of 2016, treated in a fashion that the current system here is not set up to do.

While Island Health has not made an official comment on what would happen should this referendum fail, the city has told voters a no vote would result in non-compliance with Island Health mandated standards, which would require boil-water advisories.

“We’re going to have to build it anyway,” said Pastars of the PRA. Speaking personally (the PRA has no official position statement on this), he said he believes if the referendum fails and local tourism operators start losing money because of a boil-water advisory, “the province will say ‘we’ll find the money, go ahead and build your water treatment plant.’”

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