Good Housekeeping Day at RDOS

Contributor: 
Published: 
03 September, 2015

Not one reporter from the Similkameen, Penticton or anyone else at the RDOS today – why is that?

Here is the news:

Economic Development bylaw – motion to rescind this establishment bylaw. Still contentious. Funding for the Okanagan Film Commission in doubt for 2016.
Funding for work on a water dam in the Similkameen not discussed because of a conflict of interest. Directors voted to maintain current policy of not funding outside agencies that deal in essential services.
An old Land Use Contract for the Heritage Hills area is making its way through a process of getting rid of itself. Public Hearing at the board today – one person there for it who asked “Can you explain it a bit better?.” Another public info meeting is slated for this subject later in September at OK Falls
Funding for improvements to the Faulder Water system approved with no questions asked.
Tulameen Community Club seeks to get tenure on an old school site – RDOS board will write a letter of support.

Similkameen Dam request made by Roger Mayer, an alternate for Rural Keremeos at the table which raised some “conflict of interest” questions and changes to the agenda.

Mayer’s letter to the board sought $50 thousand from Gas Tax Revenue for the Nickle Plate Dam (Similkameen Improvement District).

West Bench Director Michael Brydon stated “amateur night is over” after the Walkerton water disaster and no funding should support Local Improvement Districts. CAO Bill Newell says all essential services like water and sewer service should be under the control of local government.

Mayer said “maybe water districts in the Keremeos area should be integrated” but Regional District should not use a “big stick” to get there. Mayer said he preferred that the RDOS would work with local water systems and fund some of the needed improvements.

Mayor Manfred Bauer pointed out that Mayer is also Chairman of the Keremeos Irrigation District and stressed that some movement towards getting these districts under the umbrella of local government would be a good idea.

Comments

Ouch, this sounds harsh.  My point was--and is--that critical infrastructure like water systems should no longer be in the hands of small, community-oriented entities like irrigation districts.  Or privately held, for that matter.  Irrigation district and their close cousins, improvement districts, are self-sustaining government entities in British Columbia.  They are peers to regional districts and have their own taxing authority.  If they come to the Regional District asking for money something is wrong.  At least that is how I see it.

 We have some experience with this in Area F.  the West Bench Irrigation District was disbanded when the RDOS took over the West Bench water system.  Part of the enticement for this transfer was the simple fact that grants are only available to regional districts and municipalities but not irrigation/improvement districts. The Sage Mesa system is still privately owned and is therefore ineligible for grants.  The Faulder system has been owned and operated by the RDOS on behalf of Faulder residents since the mid-1990s.  Both the Faulder and West Bench systems have benefited from significant grants in the last few years.

As for professional management: The RDOS is just now achieving critical scale to be a "water utility". It manages the Naramata, West Bench, Faulder, and (as a contractor) Sage Mesa systems.  It total, this is a lot of water and includes ground and surface sources. Scale is important.   Scale means means trained operators who come to your house at all hours, specialized knowledge, trucks, tools, and so on.  This is what I mean by "amateur night".  Small irrigation districts clearly have difficulty running at the minimum efficient scale.  My friend Toby Pike, who runs the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) would disagree.  But SEKID is a fairly large system.  The very fact that it employs Toby full time as a manager gives you some sense of the scale.

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