Voters Made The Right Decision! Now What?

Last fall, the City of Abbotsford promoted the development of a new water source from Stave Lake and the “yes” response to a referendum. An aggressive, $320,000 advertising campaign was launched to support this initiative.

Many voters were not pleased with the tone and style of this campaign and, more importantly, had serious concerns about various aspects of the proposed waterworks program. The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated by 75% of the voters.

Since being elected, I continued to ask questions to better understand the City’s water system issues and problems. I reviewed numerous City and consultant documents, studies and reports.

The reports and studies were complex, lengthy and at times getting answers to my questions was much slower than I would have liked. Some information that I would have thought was readily available, had to be assembled by staff. At times, data was inconsistent or changing, which led to more questions. In short, it was an arduous and somewhat frustrating process!

Nevertheless, the more I read, the more convinced I became that the data the City had in its possession provided justification for discontinuing the promotion of the Stave Lake plan before it went to referendum. The evidence indicated that, not only was our water system sufficient to provide water to 2020 – 2025, as I and others had asserted during the referendum campaign, these dates could be extended out as far as 2030 – 2032. In my opinion, had the voters approved the Stave Lake Referendum, it would have created a major financial blunder that would have brought this City to its financial knees. Moreover, the citizens of Abbotsford would have had to pay for two water source systems when only one was required. To date, no one wants to answer this question; which one of the two systems (Norrish Creek or Stave Lake), would be underutilized; Norrish Creek, which is a gravity feed system, or Stave Lake which required pumping, i.e., significant ongoing electrical pumping costs?

In broad terms, there are four major water system concerns which require further work:

  1. The real need and timing for a new water source must be conclusively determined
  2. Residential water users are being overcharged for water
  3. Development is not paying its share of growth costs
  4. Plan needed to replace existing water mains and distribution pipes

Each of these will be discussed in more detail in future Blog postings. In the meantime, given the controversy surrounding this whole matter, the best way to move towards resolution of item 1 above (what is the real need for a new water source), is through an independent third party review. The taxpayers of Abbotsford are demanding that we get it right this time.