EDITORIAL: The water meeting many have been waiting for

There are many questions unanswered, but the time to re-hash options and start from scratch is long gone

It’s the opportunity people have been clamouring for, a chance to have a verbal exchange with city councillors and staff regarding the water treatment and storage plans for Parksville and Nanoose Bay.

We hope, and expect, it will be civil at the town-hall-style meeting Thursday night ( 7 p.m.) at Knox United Church. Our expectations may be off, however.

There are still some upset taxpayers out there, even after the Englishman River Water Service decided to scale down to a $24 million Plan B from Plan A’s $37 million, largely because of uncertainty around grants.

We have written here that it is time to move on, that the current plan will cost water users about $10 more a year. That does not mean resignation and does not infer the meeting Thursday is superfluous.

It is a time for clarity.

Staff and politicians need to explain exactly which grants they have applied for and their status. Taxpayers need to know where to vent any frustrations — it’s not the mayor or CAO’s fault if the B.C. government, including cabinet minister and local MLA Michelle Stilwell, is dragging its feet on releasing grant monies that have been traditionally released months ago.

Taxpayers need to know exactly what, including timelines, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has demanded of all water suppliers, re: the treatment of surface water. While it can be argued Island Health is just doing its job to protect us all, it’s hard to deny the autocratic, uncommunicative nature of this unelected, seemingly unaccountable body.

Taxpayers need to know if, how and when they will have the opportunity to vote on whether the city should borrow many millions to complete this project. City councillors need to be clear on whether they favour a referendum or the generally-hated alternative approval process. This is a bit tricky however — if borrowing is denied by voters, can the city ignore the VIHA edict? Not likely.

City councillors, especially those new to office, need to get past the urge to tear up all the work done to date. To suggest other, less expensive options weren’t pursued is to ignore the facts and is an exercise in empty pandering to the masses.

It’s our hope the meeting Thursday clarifies the situation and focuses frustrations in the proper direction. The time has passed to bring forward a new plan — that work has been done. It’s now time to band together to get senior governments to give Parksville taxpayers some of their money back in the form of much-needed infrastructure funding.

— Editorial by John Harding

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