Water warning needs to be addressed
Is Pemberton going to be the new Flint, Mich.?
Nine years ago, the Village of Pemberton (VOP) promised to address the low pH levels in our water. Today we have unacceptably high levels of lead in our drinking water.
In 2007, while working for Pique as the Pemberton reporter, I wrote a story titled "Strata feels sting of acidic water" in reference to the massive problems the low pH water was having on the Creekside strata development.
Here's a paragraph from that article which ran March 23, 2007, affirming the VOP's commitment to addressing the water problem: "Dave Allen, outgoing Director of Development Services for the village reaffirmed at the VOP's March 20 meeting that the VOP was committed to addressing the problem of the low pH level in the community's supply when construction is undertaken on the new well. Plans for the second well call for the implementation of a soda wash water conditioning system that would raise the pH level. A reduction of acidity in the water would translate to longer life for plumbing fittings."
(For complete story: www.piquenewsmagazine.com)
I feel that everyone who was in senior management at the VOP in 2007 is culpable for the situation we find ourselves in today. Some of those people still work for the Village. If this is the type of decision making that our senior administrators are making, I believe that it's time for council to call for some resignations.
This is an appalling situation that could have been addressed almost a decade ago, yet it was pushed to the side. Instead of taking steps to ensure safe water, over the past nine years, the Village has built a $12-million community centre of dubious merit and a "free" community barn that has cost taxpayers $250,000.
Since Dave Allen (assured) the community that the issue of caustic water would be addressed, nine years later the community's received a couple of "nice-to-haves" and drinking water that is (potentially) unsafe for children and pregnant women.
As a communications professional, I also question the VOP's communications strategy, which seemed only to try to distance the Village administration from the problem, intimating it was residents' plumbing and not corrosive water that was causing the lead leaching.
Yes, there's lead in the solder used in the plumbing in our homes, but it's the Village's acidic water supply that's causing the lead to be leached.
Furthermore, the Village's "press release" had incredibly narrow distribution despite the VOP having the means to contact a wide variety of businesses and individuals through email.
I think a genuine town hall meeting would be a good (idea).
Ask province and feds for money before taxpayers
Taxes up. Funding down. Spending up.
Corporations expand and shrink based on a mix of outlooks including global financial prospects, currency valuation and sales forecasts.
The RMOW does not derive income directly from product sales and needs to look at the economy closer than it is now.
Between January 2015 and 2016, Canadian food prices rose four per cent, according to Statistics Canada's consumer price index. But fresh fruit and vegetables showed some of the biggest increases, shooting up 12.9 and 18.2 per cent, respectively.
Let's put this simply. The cost of groceries is going up and I am spending more to feed my family than I did a year ago.
The decision makers at the RMOW must know that taxpayers have less disposable income, yet property taxes have increased.
The most recent five-year RMOW budget forecast calls for continues growth in expenditures, and yet without a product to sell, it must rely on continued increases in taxes and line items like DCC's (Development Cost Charnges). Given a cap on housing, the downturn of the economy with associated disposable income in the RMOW, the municipality must not rely on continued permits/DCC's to fund itself.
So the RMOW is looking at taxpayers again to meet shortfalls and spend on capital projects.
While the budget proposals seem to be in line with the needs of the RMOW, I am opposed to any tax increases in the short term.
I also note looking at line items in the budget expenditures and duplication of jobs there may be some fat to be trimmed. This duplication comes, from my perspective, in that Tourism Whistler and the Chamber do a lot of the same jobs as the RMOW; both are inter alia funded in part by RMOW.
Reducing staff in private corporations is normal in times of economic downturns. I hate to see anyone lose their job, and therefore do not advocate layoffs. A hiring freeze must be implemented now so this doesn't happen.
It also concerns me that the Province of B.C. has cut funding to the RMOW (RMI funding went down this year from $7.1 million in 2015 to an expected $6.73 million). This is in part because of a downturn in the economy and that there will be a failure in the long-term budgeting of the province that is based on LNG royalties. Ergo the projected revenues for the province will not be met and we will see a "significant cut back in the public sector" as someone commented on the Whistler Politico Facebook page.
Last month the B.C. Government announced that 21 new Early Years Centres were on the way to various municipalities. When looking at some of the towns that are getting these centres, one has to wonder if they give back to the provincial coffer as much as the RMOW does?
And then when you look at the Garibaldi at Squamish development getting the green light recently on its environmental review, it would seem that RMOW concerns are being ignored provincially.
I hear time and time again that tourism is up, record hotel nights, and so forth, yet Victoria is reducing our funding. There is something fundamentally wrong here. Who is lobbying on our behalf in Victoria? No one. And in Ottawa? No one.
Our CAO has an exceptional background, but my belief is that unless you have dedicated lobbying in the provincial and federal capitals, then we are but a voice in the wilderness. Instead of spending $120,000 to study traffic on a provincial highway, the RMOW should be spending those funds on lobbying for additional funding. Spend money to make money.
Additionally, the new government in Ottawa is about to spend billions in infrastructure, and the RMOW should be looking to get some of the funds allocated to capital projects. Are we on top of that?
If the RMOW wants to spend more money, then they need to squeeze it out of the Victoria and Ottawa, not my pocket.