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Water repairs lead to budget changes

Council briefs: How will updated OCP deal with growth?



A pair of emergency water main repairs last year pushed the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) water project budget beyond its limits, prompting some changes to the municipal books.

At the Jan. 9 council meeting, staff presented an amendment to the Five-Year Financial Plan to reflect the impact of two water main breaks over the summer: In June on Northlands Boulevard (repair cost $95,427) and in July on Cheakamus Way ($405,351).

Two other water projects also came in over budget: The Alpine Reservoir Level Control Project (from $36,000 to $96,000 in 2017 — though still below the three-year budgeted total of $662,000) and a project to stabilize flow and loading conditions at the waste water treatment plant (from $80,000 to $195,000. When originally budgeted, a rough estimate was used. To offset this increase, a tank refurbishment project was axed and others were reduced in scope).

All things considered, the changes require amendments to the 2017-2021 Five-Year Financial Plan in the order of an additional $633,800.

There's a chance that more big water projects will be on the books when Whistlerites get their first look at the municipal budget next month, as more systems may be due for replacement much like the $6-million-plus project in Alpine completed in 2016.

"The next two that are on our list to investigate and probably replace are the Alta Vista area and the White Gold area. Those are the two sort of oldest systems where we haven't done much work," general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey told council. "We have looked at the amount of leakage going on in those areas in the fairly recent past, and it wasn't terrible leakage at the time... the systems appeared to be fairly tight, but it is time for us to have another look at that and some of the design work is going to be done in 2018."


As the RMOW works its way toward updating its Official Community Plan (OCP), questions remain about the impact of growth and overtourism — and what local officials are doing to combat the related problems.

At the Jan. 9 council meeting, Whistlerite John Wood was in attendance to query the council table about the effectiveness of the bed cap, introduced in 1976 as a means of managing future growth in Whistler.

"Over the last couple of years it's become clear to me that the bed cap has failed in its role as a means of controlling growth," Wood said. "If it were successful, we would not have the congestion, the housing and capacity issues we see today, and what concerns me more than today's issues is that these issues will get worse as long as we pretend that the bed cap is an actual functioning control."

Wood went on to ask if council will put stronger and more effective controls of growth in the updated OCP.

Though she didn't agree that the bed cap is not effective, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden noted the RMOW is still in the early stages of updating the OCP.

"But we'll see what controls the community wishes to place in the OCP as we go into the process in addition to what we already have," she said.

When Wood responded with a definition of the phrase "overtourism," he was interrupted by Wilhelm-Morden, who reminded him the podium is meant for questions, and not expressing personal views.

"I'm disappointed in the response," Wood said. "I'm beginning to think that maybe OCP stands for the 'Official Corporate Plan.'"

Asked for a response after the meeting, Wilhelm-Morden said the phrase is "really quite a misnomer," pointing to the thousands of hours of community work that went into the 2013 OCP before it got sidetracked.

"We don't anticipate there are going to be significant changes to the OCP. We simply want to update it and bring it back," she said.

While discussions are taking place between First Nations, the province and the RMOW, the community won't be privy to the content until the time is right.

"As you can probably appreciate, they are discussions, they are negotiations, there is some sensitivity attached to them, but certainly as matters progress it will be rolled out," Wilhelm-Morden said, adding that a council workshop is planned for Jan. 16. "We'll be discussing further at that time what the (community engagement) process will look like, and there will be some announcements after that."


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