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City commissions water survey

Abbotsford residents are being asked for their opinions on the city’s water system and plans to create a new source at Stave Lake.

A telephone survey, commissioned by the city, is being conducted by Acrobat Research Canada and was scheduled to be completed early this week.

“We are doing some early polling to find out what residents are thinking at this moment,” said city manager Frank Pizzuto.

While no details about the questions have been released, Pizzuto said the results, and the cost, will be made public at an upcoming council meeting. A list of the questions should also be made available.

According to Pizzuto, only Abbotsford residents are being contacted, although some Missions residents were initially called through error.

He said the purpose of the survey is to gauge public opinion and knowledge leading up to a referendum in November.

The city is proposing to create a new $284-million water source and treatment centre at Stave Lake. The city has applied for federal funding from PPP Canada to create a public-private partnership to build and run the new water treatment centre.

If approval for federal funding is received, it could provide up to 25 per cent of the cost.

A referendum will be required to get the assent of the electorate. It will likely be a two-part question – one regarding the borrowing of funds to pay the capital costs, and the other asking for approval of the financial terms of the P3 agreement.

The city is still waiting for a decision from PPP Canada and expects an answer by the end of August.

Abbotsford Coun. John Smith said he is aware of the survey, but doesn’t believe it was ever voted on by council.

“This was a staff initiative, not a council initiative,” he said.

According to Smith, city staff wanted more information regarding the public’s perception on the water issue, so they could address concerns leading up to the referendum.

“There’s all sorts of misinformation out there.”

Pizzuto said council did approve the overall mandate of a communication strategy around the new water source. However, “this specific initiative was not specifically approved by council.”

Staff are looking to develop an “educational and awareness campaign to residents so they get good information to make an informed decision,” said Pizzuto.

Several residents contacted by the pollsters have raised concerns about some of the questions, suggesting they may indicate a P3 bias.

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