RDEK to ‘start fresh’ with Windermere water upgrade

The Regional District of East Kootenay will take another stab at bringing potable drinking water to Windermere.

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) will take another stab at bringing potable drinking water to Windermere, after its last plan failed to gain traction with area voters.

Last summer the community voted down a proposal that would have seen it purchase treated water in bulk from a private utility.

Costs for the project would have been more than $5 million, with residents paying about $60 a month in water fees. Of the 244 ballots cast in a referendum, more than 200 were against the plan.

Eight months later, Area F director Wendy Booth says it’s difficult to say just why the plan failed to win community support.

“Leading up to the referendum there was lots of misinformation out there, there was lots of confusion about what exactly it was we were doing,” she says, adding reservations about working with a private utility also hampered the project. “There were so many different reasons, I don’t think you can pin it on any one reason.”

By hiring a consultant who wasn’t involved in the last project, Booth says she’s hoping to bring a fresh start to the water system discussion.

“The ultimate goal is to get proper, compliant drinking water to the community of Windermere, and we didn’t know how to get it there,” she says.

“So I thought we needed to take it back to the grass roots, back to the basics, and bring an outsider in who doesn’t know a lot of the history of it and just restart from ground zero. It’s a blank page and we need to decide as a community what we’re going to write on it.”

The new process will likely begin with a number of community meetings and consultations, though exact dates are still being hammered down. Booth says she plans to have some sessions scheduled on weekends with an eye to second homeowners as well.

“I want this to be a community-driven decision, not a decision that’s my decision or just the utility advisory commission decision,” she says. “It’s such a big decision for the community that everyone’s got to be a part of the decision making process.”

The cost for the consultant will be between $5,000 and $12,000, depending on the number of community consultation sessions held.