Parksville’s Nov. 21 referendum being watched closely by Nanoose Bay residents

A 'no' vote could mean boil-water advisories for residents in both Parksville and Nanoose Bay

Regional District of Nanaimo Director Bob Rogers may be understating things a bit when he says Nanoose Bay residents have a “significant interest” in Parksville’s Nov. 21 referendum.

While it’s in dispute for some considering the age of the assent/borrowing bylaws and the change in the population in 20 years, Nanoose Bay residents passed a referendum two decades ago to allow for a loan to pay for their share of the Arrowsmith Dam, an intake and water treatment/storage.

Nanoose Bay taxpayers are on the hook for $7.7 million of the $28.3 million plan that’s on the table now. The amount of borrowing required is $2.6 million. A water fund surplus/reserves and grants will cover the rest of Nanoose Bay’s share.

Parksville must borrow $5.6 million to cover its 74 per cent of the costs and is going to the polls for permission. Nanoose Bay residents can only sit and watch. It’s unclear what would happen if the Parksville referendum fails.

“I’m hoping, and confident, they will approve it,” Rogers said this week. He also repeated his support for the current plan. “I think it’s an excellent project and I think it should go ahead.”

What happens if the referendum fails?

“If it does not pass then Parksville will have to bring it back to the next Englishman River Water Service (ERWS) board meeting and we’ll go from there,” said Rogers.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, roughly 18,000 residents of Parksville and Nanoose Bay could be facing constant boil water advisories.

Island Health has decreed that all surface (river) water headed to homes must be treated in a certain fashion by Jan. 1, 2017. The ERWS draws about 50 per cent of its water for homes from the Englishman River.

“If we don’t meet that deadline we won’t be able to use our surface water,” said City of Parksville operations manager Mike Squire. “If we do use it, and we will need to use it in the summer time, we will be basically in violation of the Health Act. The only thing we will be able to do, if we need it, which we will, is tell everyone ‘I’m sorry, you’re going to have to boil your water. And that’s just over a year from now.”

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. today (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.

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