Straight talk sought on Windermere water

A letter to the editor in response to the last "Windermere water" story.

Re: “Misinformation about Windermere water,” June 22

Just how much communication has there been about the water “situation”?

Last fall RDEK told the people of Windermere that a series of meetings would settle the water treatment situation in the spring. A Windermere Utility Advisory Commission assigned to study the issue could not agree to purchase treated water from Parr, but they did agree to settle the issue with a referendum.

A petition called for public treatment of Windermere water and not the purchase of privately treated water from Parr. This petition was presented at the February 10 meeting. At the May 17 meeting, RDEK presented their water treatment proposal to approximately 120 citizens. They told the citizenry that there was only one choice and that was to purchase treated water from the private provider, Parr. There was not an acknowledgement of the community sentiment other than to say that there would not be a grant for a public treatment facility that the MMM Group Ltd. study estimated would cost $12 million. The officials at the meeting told us that with the Parr option we would be guaranteed the grant to upgrade our system. Who is “corrupting the voting”?

This prompted people to question the $12 million MMM estimated cost to upgrade the Windermere Water utility when a Focus study estimated the  cost at $4.6 million using 2001 dollars. There were questions left unanswered regarding the settling of water rates by the Comptroller of British Columbia Water Rights. There were questions about the economic viability of private water treatment providers in British Columbia. This meeting resulted in more questions being raised than being answered.

The citizenry was very agitated with the top down communication. Consequently, this led to the creation of the self-appointed committee — that is, volunteers who wanted to examine more thoroughly the options available. One member of the committee was Steve Lackey, a retired water engineer with 32 years of water treatment experience in Canada and the U.S. Talk about the story gaining legs. As citizen Steve phrased it, “I have no vested interest in the water issue, only that the right thing be done.”

Unbeknownst to us, Steve has already done a cost-benefit analysis of joining with Parr versus a stand-alone public water system. This stand-alone public system serving 787 lots would cost $6.4 million, whereas the Parr system serving 623 lots would cost $5 million. While the stand-alone system is initially more costly, it could have its debts retired after 16 years. Over this same period of time with Parr, there would still be a $1 million debt remaining. Under Steve’s plan, revenue from the sale of new lots would go to retiring debt. Steve’s plan includes the use of the old fire hall for the stand-alone treatment facility that can be expanded to accommodate 1,800 lots. Furthermore, Steve’s plan comes at half the cost of the MMM estimated cost for a stand-alone facility for Windermere. Steve’s plan also looks at alternatives for the backwash and chlorination of water in order to meet Interior Health requirements.

On June 10, Steve presented his stand-alone water treatment proposal to about 70 citizens at the Windermere Community Hall. The meeting was open to everyone. Steve took one hour to make a very detailed and enlightening presentation that had the undivided attention of the audience. During the course of his presentation he responded to all questions asked. Some people remained in the hall another hour to ask Steve about his proposal. Steve is open to having his stand-alone option scrutinized by those versed in technical details. A considered exchange of ideas about the various options is the process that is most likely to result in the best solution to the Windermere Water issue.

Why is this “an interruption to an important political process”? Out of chaos comes resolution when reason is allowed to prevail.

Mike Hamilton,