Balfour says no to borrowing for new water system

Residents had been asked to approve a plan by the RDCK to finish funding the work.

Balfour residents have voted against the RDCK borrowing money to help fund a new water system.

Balfour residents have voted against the RDCK borrowing money to help fund a new water system.

Balfour residents have rejected a borrowing proposal that would have helped restore the community’s water system.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay had been granted nearly $1.7 million in federal funds and another $1.1 million from the province to pay for a new reservoir in Balfour. The RDCK still needed to borrow $583,323 to fund the project, which it had asked permission from Balfour residents for via an alternate approval process.

But just 45 valid elector response forms were received out of 333 eligible residents, and the negative response was all that was needed to sink the plan.

Area E director Ramona Faust said Tuesday she was disappointed with the result.

“It’s disappointing to have the province and the federal government recognize your need and not take advantage of it.”

The project would have also funded a universal metering system, an upgrade to standby power, a replacement for the upper zone pump station, an extended distribution system and a hydrant infill. Faust said replacing the reservoir is a priority, and that the current system has no backup to keep water flowing if it loses power.

Approval would have also meant a 30 per cent increase in water parcel tax as well as an annual two per cent rise in taxes for single dwelling homes through 2023.

Faust said confusion over the 30 per cent increase and opposition to the introduction of universal metering were the primary reasons given by residents.

“It’s not like we don’t have to do these projects,” said Faust. “At least two of them, which will take well over a $1 million, will have to be done.”

The result means the project’s future is unknown.

Faust said RDCK staff will now need to find out if they can do a short-term borrow for the remaining funds, which would scale the project back. They also need to see if they can have an extension for the grants and more time to complete the project, which would require a referendum.

Alternate approval processes (AAP) differ from referendums. An AAP is generally used when a project is thought to have community support, and Faust said the RDCK had initially sought to avoid the cost and time of a referendum by instead holding the AAP.

Now the RDCK needs to find out if it’s already too late for a referendum in Balfour.