To borrow or not: that is the question

According to District of Barriere staff, most service connections do not meet current standards

The District of Barriere has announced they would like to replace the watermain along Barriere Town Road, from approximately Station Road to just north of Barkley Road, and to do so they must borrow a total of no more than $1,200,000. This announcement has caused many area residents to question the timeliness of that decision.

The District says this upgrade, which will reportedly benefit and be paid for by all water system users, would be completed at the same time the opposite side of Barriere Town Road is being dug up to install the wastewater pipes for the new sewer system.

They also note that the particular infrastructure they wish to replace is approximately 50 years old, and is undersized for size of town. The current pipe size is six inches, rather than the 10 inches which it is supposed to be.  The current system also utilizes the old asbestos cement pipes.

According to District staff, most service connections do not meet current standards, and they believe the system has far surpassed its life expectancy, with the possibility of breaks and/or complete failure being imminent.

So, what if we wait a few years to make the upgrade, how much would it cost then?  An estimated $2 million; $800,000 more than the cost of doing it today.

What about accessing a grant now or in the future instead of borrowing?  District staff advise that at this time there are no grant intakes for this type of infrastructure work. In the future there may be funding opportunities but there is no guarantee Barriere will be awarded one.

Apparently the District does have some money in a water reserve fund,  but its balance is nowhere near the required amount for this project.   The municipality  wishes to keep this money in place for breaks, unexpected equipment failures and other water emergencies.

So, if the District does borrow the funds, even though interest rates are extremely low, how much is that going to cost the taxpayer?  We’re told here will be a resulting cost to property owners of approximately $1,300 per lot that could either be paid up front or, paid annually with borrowing interest, in the form of a parcel tax for a 15 year term.   And of course we asked the unpopular question of why isn’t this automatically going to a vote (a referendum)?  The District’s position is that hosting a referendum is expensive; staffing a polling station, advertising, ballot printing and signage usually adds up to thousands of dollars.  Their recommendation is that the Alternative Approval Process option, was designed to reduce the cost impact to municipal tax payers of such a process, but still provide an opportunity to make his or her voice heard.

If a resident wants this to go to a referendum anyway, what do they need to do?  Qualified electors have until 4 p.m., April 22, 2013, to advise the District should they feel this matter is of such significance that a referendum should be held. If more than 10 per cent of the electors hold this opinion then council cannot proceed with borrowing until after a formal referendum takes place.

Official Elector Response Forms will be available at the District Office from March 21, to April 22 during regular office hours or downloadable from the District website, Proof of elector eligibility will be required through the provision of your full name, residential address and signature. Non-resident property electors must provide the address of the property they own that would be subject to the borrowing charge. Eligible electors must be within the area of the District serviced by municipal water. At this time there are an estimated 1,500 eligible electors in the District of Barriere.

If you have something to say about this issue, now is the time.