The fate of the city’s plan to build a water treatment plant was the hot topic Thursday at the first all-candidates forum of the election season in Parksville.
Three of the four candidates for mayor and 11 of the 13 people who wish to fill council seats after the Nov. 15 municipal election were in attendance for the forum sponsored by the Oceanside Development and Construction Association (ODCA).
They almost outnumbered the gallery, which had about 20 people. The ODCA restricted attendance to members of their association and the media.
Each candidate was given a few minutes to speak and then they were each given an opportunity to answer the following question from moderator and ODCA president Duane Round: what is your plan to pay/finance the new water treatment plant?
With a deadline from Island Health to treat all surface water looming, the Englishman River Water Service had developed a $37 million intake and aquifer storage plan (Parksville’s part of the bill would have been about $27 million). However, without any commitments for funding help from senior levels of government, the plan is up in the air and will have to be sorted out by the new city council.
There were little fireworks in the forum on Thursday afternoon. Some candidates, considering their hosts, chose to speak about development issues. Here’s a look at some of the comments made by candidates in their opening speeches and/or in answer to the water-plant question:
Heidi Abbott (candidate for council): “I appreciate your organization (ODCA) can help shape the future of our community.”
Mary Beil (council): said development cost charges “seem quite high” in Parksville and she recognized the construction sector “provides employment for a somewhat younger demographic.”
Dallas Collis (candidate for mayor): chose to speak about global warming, “the number one issue for all of our lives. Our entire lifestyles will have to change.” He also said the city and ERWS should be looking at drawing water from above the Englishman River Falls because it would require much less treatment.
Michael Donigan (council): “There’s a disconnect between city council, the newspapers and the general public” on the water treatment plant issue. He also said he would like to have discussions about ideas like making Parksville’s industrial area a DCC-free zone.
Jim Gordon (council): “I’m not pushing any agenda,” he said. “It (the city) is looking good. Let’s keep that ball rolling.”
Al Greir (council): “We can do it (the treatment plant) cheaper,” he said. “There never has been a Plan B. A review is needed by some fresh eyes.”
Rick Honaizer (council): “City hall has been in the way of contractors who come to town,” he said. “I will fight for the building trades.”
Marc Lefebvre (mayor): Outlined his priorities, which include the water treatment plant, maintaining fiscal discipline and “focussing on the fundamentals.” He said he would seek an extension from Island Health on water treatment but “the simple answer is we’ll have to face it.”
Bill Neufeld (mayor): “We have to have more things done by the city to improve the downtown ambiance,” he said. As for the proposed $37 million water treatment plant: “We don’t need as big a plant as is being suggested.”
Kirk Oates (council): “Development does not have to (create) conflict or be mysterious or misunderstood.” He called for full public engagement on the water treatment plant issue.
Teresa Patterson (council): “I grew up knowing how to read a blueprint,” she said. “I understand DCCs and I wonder if we don’t have options with them, like not paying all up front but having them paid over time.”
Roy Plotniko (council): He questionned why taxes and water rates continued to rise in the city during this time of such low inflation. “I believe taxpayers of Parksville don;t want four more years of this.” As for the water plant, he said “If the money is not there for us thee is only one thing to do: build something smaller.”
Leanne Salter (council): Made reference to what she believes is a “bureacratic and costly permitting process” at city hall. She dubbed the $37 million water treatment proposal a “crazy plan.”
Caroline Waters: “The DCCs in Parksville are higher than they are in the RDN and that’s contributing to sprawl and taking business away from Parksville,” she said. As for the water treatment facility, she pointed to the importance of water storage.
The Parskville and District Chamber of Commerce and
The NEWS are sponsoring a forum on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre.