An information meeting regarding an upcoming referendum for the District of Barriere regarding borrowing $1.2 million to replace a water line, brought approximately 65 people out on May 15 to a public meeting at the Ridge.
The question on the referendum is, “Are you in favour of the District of Barriere Council adopting Bylaw No.102, a bylaw to authorize the borrowing of up to One Million, Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($1,200,000) for the proposed water main upgrade on Barriere Town Road?”
The upgrade has apparently come about as a result of the District of Barriere receiving funding to construct a municipal wastewater plant and associated collection and distribution system to service the downtown core. Part of the project will involve digging up the west side of Barriere Town Road from Station Road, to just north of Barkley Road, with associated pipe crossings from the properties on the east side. The asbestos concrete water main along the east side of this stretch is approximately 50-years-old and only six inches (150mm) in diameter. Council says they feel it makes sense to borrow the money (estimated at $1.2 million) to upgrade this main at the same time the wastewater pipes are being installed, taking advantage of the low interest rates of the day. Engineering and water system staff also say they support this decision. In order to adopt the bylaw (Bylaw 102) required to borrow the requisite amount for this additional work, council needs the assent of the eligible electors within the Water Service area.
General Voting Day for the referendum will be on Saturday, May 25, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., at the District of Barriere office in the Ridge.
Registration of all eligible electors will take place at the time of voting. You will be required to make a declaration that you meet the following requirements:
• 18 years of age or older
• Canadian citizen
• Resident of BC for at least six months immediately preceding voting day
• Resident of OR registered owner of real property within the WATER SERVICE AREA of the District of Barriere for at least 30 days immediately preceding voting day, and
• Not otherwise disqualified by law from voting.
Dave Underwood, the engineer of record for the project, spoke to those who attended the meeting about why council has decided to proceed with the water line replacement project. He noted that asbestos cement pipe was first introduced in the 1920’s, and was used extensively until the 1970’s, and finally largely discontinued in the late 1980’s. The pipes along Barriere Town Road were put in around 1969, with iron being the only alternative at the time. The pipe is hard to repair and tends to crack under trench loads.
He noted that some improvements to the line were done in 1994 and again in 2010. He said that there are two options on replacing the problems with the pipe which at this time are mainly the connectors. One option is to simply replace the failing connectors, and replace the pipe that is losing its integrity in certain areas by cutting it away and replacing with PVC pipe, and then patch up the road.
Option number two is the one council has proposed to address the failing pipe and complete a hydraulic system upgrade, and the entire roadway would be redone instead of patched.
He noted this upgrade would improve the fire suppression ability of the particular area by up to 1000 metres, and would extend the roadway life expectancy of Barriere Town Road in regards to pedestrians and traffic flow.
District water man Doug Burrows, said the problem with the pipe is definitely the failing connectors and the hydraulic problems experienced in the past. He said estimated leakage of the current water line in question is about 20 per cent.
Attendees were assured that cutting into the asbestos pipe would not cause any health hazards to consumers of the water as safeguards are used throughout the procedure, and ingesting asbestos is not harmful, it is breathing it that is the problem.
It was noted that the sewer line will run on the west side of the road and the water line on the East side.
It was also noted that during the upgrades water will be shut off quite a few times in the area and that there could be some impact to business due to unavoidable detours, but that most likely one lane of traffic will remain open.
District financial administrator, Nora Johnson, said the cost of the loan will be divided between all of the properties that would be connected to the water line. She also stated that the cost is per property line, not per number of tenants on the property. “Everybody pays the same amount now per tax roll number no matter if it is a vacant lot or a single family home, or an apartment.”
“For the property owner, the parcel tax is the most beneficial for them because they can use a part of their homeowner grant,” said Johnson.
As with previous borrowings, there are two options for payment. 1) If deferred to taxes, the payment would be approximately $115 per year for 15 years for a total paid of approximately $1700. 2) If paid up front, the payment is approximately $1300.
The payments will start once the work is done and then at that time the total amount needed to be borrowed can be determined accurately. The current waterline borrowing completes in 2015.
Up front payout for each tax roll that does not choose to finance over time – $1,270. Total cost for each tax roll that chooses to finance – $1,715 over 15 years ($115 per year).
Financing $115 per year as a parcel tax: Your basic Home Owners Grant (HOG), if you are under 65 years of age, is $770. You are required to make a minimum tax payment on your own of $350.
Note: if your gross taxes (before HOG) are less than $1,005, the $115/year parcel tax for the water main upgrade will not impact the amount you have to pay. Example: Gross Taxes of $1,005 less minimum required payment of $350, equals $655. Add the $115 for the upgrade to the $655, and you get $770 which is the amount of the HOG, leaving a balance owing of $0.00.
Your basic Senior’s Home Owner Grant (SHOG) if you are 65 years of age or older, is $1,045. You are required to make a minimum tax payment on your own of $100. If your gross taxes (before SHOG) are less than $1,030, the $115 parcel tax for the water main upgrade will not impact the amount you have to pay. Example: Gross Taxes of $1,030 less minimum required payment of $100, equals $930. Add the $115 for the upgrade to the $930, and you get $1,045, which is the amount of the HOG, leaving a balance owing of $0.00.
Johnson noted that if you sell your property you can’t pay off what is owed on the debt to your property. “You can choose to pay it out today, or over the term of the debt,” said Johnson, “It is not attached to you, it is attached to the property.”
Asked how many kilometers of asbestos pipe are in the District? Burrows said he thought about 45. “We do have a plan that shows where we have the pipe and when it went in the ground.”
Some discussion took place about other upcoming phases to improve the pipe system in the future. One resident commented, “Each time a new phase takes place you are going to keep coming to us to pay for it. You’re going to have pretty broke old people here in town?”
Councilor Stamer answered that the District’s infrastructure is older than it should be. “We’re just trying to play catch up. We did Lodgepole because it was a critical part of the water system. It had to be done, it got to the top of the heap, even though it wasn’t what we had been planning for at the time. Hopefully we can manage with what we have. The pumps are doing well and we do have reserves for pumps, etc.”
It was noted that the $1.2 mil is only going to pay for the proposed waterline upgrade.
What happens if voters say no to the borrowing, “then we carry on with option two.”