With the fate of a proposed Stave Lake water supply and treatment facility firmly in the hands of the electorate, the obvious question is, what happens if voters say no?
“At this point in time, we have not invested time and effort into that,” said Abbotsford Mayor George Peary.
“If the taxpayers decide they do not wish to access the federal government funding, or if they believe the critics who say there is no immediate need for water … then it will be a very different community moving forward.”
The city is planning to construct the new water system using a public-private partnership (P3) at a cost of $291 million. The city is waiting to hear if nearly $61 million in federal funding will be made available from PPP Canada.
Critics of the P3 plan have numerous concerns, including allowing a private company to make a profit from a natural resource, and are questioning the immediate need for a new system. Many believe conservation will allow the current water system, from Norrish Creek, to adequately supply water for several years.
The city says a water shortage is likely by 2016.
“Conservation efforts would have to increase,” said city manager Frank Pizzuto, if a no vote occurs.
“We would have to go back to the drawing board and take another look at our water options,” he added.
Pizzuto said more “significant restrictions” would have to be created regarding water use (lawn watering etc.) and decisions would have to be made on what development could be supported in the future.
A new water supply would still need to be created.
“Whatever we eventually decide, it will cost more money … We made this decision (P3) because we believe it to be the most cost-efficient solution to our water needs,” said Pizzuto.
The city will host five public information meetings to present its argument for the P3 project.
The meetings take place:
n Oct. 15 from 1-4:30 p.m. at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre (34690 Old Yale Rd.);
n Oct. 20 from 4:30-8 p.m. at Rick Hansen Secondary (31150 Blueridge Dr.) cafeteria;
n Nov. 1 from 4:30-8 p.m. at the Garden Park Tower (2825 Clearbrook Rd.) in the Magnolia Room;
n Nov. 16 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at city hall (32315 South Fraser Way);
n Nov. 17 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at city hall;
Peary hopes people will come to see the benefit of the P3 proposal.
With competition from the private sector and borrowing costs at historic lows, Peary said the eventual cost should come down.
“I fully expect the final price will be significantly under the costs estimated,” said Peary.
Municipalities have asked the federal government for help with infrastructure. Now that it has been offered, under the P3 procurement method, Peary asked should communities say “we want help, but we don’t want that kind of help? … we can’t have it both ways.”
He said all the city can do is present what it thinks is the best course of action.
“At the end of the day, voters will make up their own minds.”
And they will get that opportunity during the referendum on Nov. 19.