Between a rock and a hard place

A drinking water system in Canal Flats does not meet Interior Health's new health standards, but needs to by 2015

Elected officials and property owners in Canal Flats are currently facing a problem that’s ramping up across B.C. — aging infrastructure but not enough money for upgrades.

In this case, it’s a drinking water system in Canal Flats that does not meet Interior Health’s new health standards, but needs to by 2015. After years of failed attempts to fix the problem, the village council is at a final crossroads with health authorities breathing down their neck. They must choose between either rebuilding a standalone system for the subdivision of Eagle’s Nest, or connecting it to that of the village.

Either way, it’s going to cost local property taxpayers even more money. If council decides to merge the two systems, Canal Flats property owners will have to share the cost and pay up. If they leave the Eagle’s Nest system as a standalone, this will place the financial burden squarely on the shoulders of the property owners in the subdivision.

At first glance, this option will undoubtedly appeal more to Canal Flats residents. However, the longterm consequences could be quite dire. Raising property taxes in this section of town (as Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras states, this neighbourhood is still under the Canal Flats community umbrella) to the tune of  $1,816 per year, up from $574, may prove to be too much for some of its residents — and future ones. The growth that Canal Flat is seeing in terms of population and economy could suffer a blow should Eagle’s Nest real estate prove to be too expensive, ultimately resulting in a loss of tax dollars, and a vacant neighbourhood. If council is leaning toward merging the systems and sharing the cost, the numbers handed out at the public hearing don’t endear Canal Flats residents to this option. They appear to be a little too much of the “all or nothing” variety, and are missing a range of options that show different percentages in the cost breakdown for the two groups of taxpayers, which may appeal to those who balk at the increased tax dollars but embrace the notion of a stronger community.