EDITORIAL: The real costs of new water treatment plant

It's roughly equivalent to one lunch a year at a restaurant

Sticker shock is a real thing.

Some Parksville residents are understandably upset at the prospect of paying for their share of $37 million water treatment and storage facilities. Upon further review, it’s not that daunting.

The first thing to know is Plan A, the $37 million plan put forward by the Englishman River Water Service (ERWS), is just not going to happen. That plan was premised on the customary funding formula that saw the federal, provincial and municipal governments pay one third each. (That’s all from the same taxpayer of course, but government types like to think they are separately gifting us serfs this money, but that’s a rant for another time.)

That kind of funding just isn’t going to happen, so the ERWS has a Plan B. It will cost about $26 million, minus the more realistic expectation of $6 million in grants.

Parksville pays 76 per cent of the total bill, Nanoose Bay 24 per cent.

In Parksville, the cost of the facilities will be recouped through water bills. The average water bill for a single family dwelling is currently about $320/year. To cover the costs of Plan B, there will be a 2.25 per cent increase in the water rates in each year from 2016-2024. So, that $320 water bill in 2015 will be about $328 in 2016 — an increase that’s less than the price of a reasonable lunch at one of our fine local eateries.

Thing is, Plan A would have set Parksville up for about 40 years. Plan B will require another phase, and more costs, in 2024.

Residents and councillors who can spend some time with city staff and are committed to doing the reading related to the history of Arrowsmith Water Service, the Arrowsmith dam and the ERWS will come to the conclusion that all involved have considered many options. Nothing is being rammed down anyone’s throat here and there are no nefarious agendas we can see.

Island Health painted Parksville into a corner with its declaration that all surface water must be treated by Dec. 31, 2016. Island Health doesn’t care about a city’s funding issues — it only cares about the safety of the water for human consumption, and that makes sense.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t care about a city’s funding issues — it only cares about fish, and that makes sense.

It seems this Plan B is palatable for all, including the taxpayer. It’s time to move on.

— Editorial by John Harding

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