Since the referendum on the Stave Lake water supply question, the Abbotsford-Mission Water Sewer Commission (AMWSC) has done very little to clarify the issues.
Staff, on their own recommendation, have been carrying out a review of the work to date and the options that are available. However, these are the same people who made the recommendations to proceed with Stave Lake.
This proposal was soundly defeated by the Abbotsford residents.
Generally, organizations do a poor job of self-analysis or investigation, especially when it may involve having to admit that a radical change in direction is required.
The following describes some of the reasons why WSC staff should not be carrying out such a review.
1. Stave Lake was and is the favoured staff option and staff has shown a bias towards this project to the exclusion of other more economical options.
2. During the referendum, residents were told by staff that unless the Stave Lake project was approved there would be major shortfall by 2016. The latest analysis indicates that the present supplies are adequate till 2025, and with upgrades will provide adequate water even for a growing population up to 2030 and beyond.
3. Development cost charges do not reflect the fact that the need for upgrades is brought about by new development. The DCC funds are depleted, yet the work required to accommodate future development is progressing and being financed by today’s residential users. While 80 per cent of the upgrades are required for new development, during the referendum staff suggested that less than 10 per cent would be financed through development cost charges and therefore the burden should be transferred to residential users.
4. Staff in its latest report to the AMWSC has ignored the obvious advantage the lower operating costs which Norrish Creek provides. Since Norrish Creek is the only gravity-supplied system of the favoured options, it will provide a cost savings of between $.05 and $.08 per cubic metre over any of the other options. Since this saving would extend in perpetuity, it only makes sense to develop this option before looking to other more expensive options.
5. At a time when costly capital projects are being planned, staff is recommending excess funding for renewal and replacement programs that will benefit future users more than the present population. Only the most essential renewals should be carried out at this time.
6. There is no clear overall water capital improvement program which everyone can adhere to. There are different programs in the city’s master plan, the AMWSC capital plan, the city’s capital water plan and the city’s financial plan. Someone needs to bring this all together.
It is my experience that the city engineering staff are capable, honest and hard-working people, but that is not to say they are exempt from being biased and in some cases blind to certain economic realities, such as the high cost their recommendations have on residential users.
In their bias towards the Stave Lake project, staff failed to see the pitfall of the P3 proposal as well as the excessive operating, financing and purchase cost this project would have involved.
Therefore, an independent review which will provide a quick overview of all options presented to date, as well as examining capital costs, operating costs, the present fee structure, reserve funds, DCC funds and the present rate structure, needs to be carried out now, and not some time in the future.