What’s to talk about?

Ron Bolin: Jan. 25, 2012

During Monday’s (Jan.23, 2012) Council meeting a significant discussion almost took place regarding the expenditure of up to $560,000 for Preliminary Engineering on the South Fork II Dam.  The discussion which almost took place began when Councillor Bestwick asked whether we have examined the alternatives to a very costly dam project which is predicated on a population increase to 100,000 in the next ten years and a total expenditure of some $70 million dollars to meet the resultant water needs. Almost before the issue could be raised, Councillor Brennan called a point of order indicating, as far as I was able to decipher, that Council was no place to discuss such issues: that once in Council, Councillors are to either raise their hand yea, or raise it nay.   This is a pattern with which those of us who view Council are all too familiar.  Again, as far as I was able to tell, the matter of the point of order was never settled, so the principle involved was not made manifest, but the discussion fizzled at this juncture.

The real point to be made here is that if such matters are not to be discussed in Council before the public, when are they supposed to take place and what is the public’s role in such discussions?  Obvious alternatives to spending $70 million on a new dam are to further reduce per capita water use; to limit population growth through land controls, a method often used in tourist communities as we seem to strive to be; or to seek alternative sources.  While I do not represent that no alternatives have been examined, I suggest that the public is not aware that such growth and the path that we are on currently will cost the city more than one year’s total property tax income.  And where do Development Cost Charges (DCCs) fit in?

And most importantly, if Council is not the place for such discussions, then where is the place and when is the time for them?

I end by noting that the land under study in the up to $560,000 is not owned by the City and thus the results of the study could prove to be of little or no use.  I am informed that we could perhaps, under the Water Act, be able to expropriate it at fair market value.  What is that fair market value?  What is it now?  What will it be after the study?  Seems we ought to be looking a few steps ahead.