Pritchard residents look for answers

pritchard-waterPRITCHARD — A lot of residents in Pritchard Development are concerned about the fact a fire hydrant didn’t work during a New Year’s Day fire.

They’re also concerned about the time it’s taking to get some of the information they’re asking for, and are asking related questions and expressing concern about other aspects of the water system such as drinking water quality.

I understand all that. Bureaucracies don’t always work as fast as we’d like (nor, for that matter, as fast as they’d like), but I can tell you I’m doing my best to help people get answers to their questions. What I can’t guarantee is that they’ll always like the answers.

The bulletin delivered earlier this week wasn’t intended to be the “final answer” in providing information about the issue. It was a way to get background information to all residents rather than just those who attend a meeting. The bulletin includes contact information for TNRD staff members for residents who have further questions.

Wording of the bulletin itself has raised concerns. One resident told me the bulletin seems to imply the TNRD doesn’t take responsibility for the hydrants. In fact, the TNRD does maintain and inspect the hydrants.

On an annual basis, the hydrants are checked and repaired as needed. This maintenance is funded through the operations and maintenance budget for the system.

The bulletin points out is that the water system installed by the original developer many years ago is no longer up to current standards for fire suppression and if the community wishes to upgrade it for that purpose, it would be costly. However, the hydrants are certainly of value to firefighters in combination with tanker trucks.

A public meeting is obviously in order so residents can ask questions directly to the TNRD. However, getting questions answered in the meantime will certainly help. Here are some of the things I’ve heard so far, in some cases paraphrasing questions.

What do the records and logs say about the TNRD’s takeover of the water system and about ongoing maintenance?

I’m hoping to have the answers to this one shortly — it’s simply a matter of staff collecting the information. Hopefully, these documents will include information on why the TNRD was asked to take over the system and more details on maintenance.

Why didn’t the hydrant work, and when was a maintenance check last done on it?

I’m told by residents that it was bagged on a previous occasion and that the bag was then removed. Again, I’ve asked for information on this hydrant on your behalf. As the bulletin explained, there are particular challenges with the water system in general in Pritchard, but the hydrant has been repaired. Hydrants in any system can fail between inspections.

Does Pritchard pay more for its water than other communities?

Of 11 TNRD water systems, Pritchard pays more than two of the other communities, and the same or less than the others. The current quarterly toll is $150, while the highest paid in the region is $300. There’s a 10% discount for paying on time. There’s also a parcel tax of $120 per year. The rates paid by residents of various water systems vary because the costs of running them vary based on the systems themselves and the number of residents sharing the cost.

Why is Black Pines getting money to upgrade its water system and Pritchard isn’t?

A new water intake has been proposed for Black Pines at an estimated cost of $1.345 million. Two-thirds of that funding has been committed from federal-provincial infrastructure money. Residents must pay the remaining third if they wish to go ahead with the project. It was recently found that the proposed intake site is not suitable so alternatives are being looked at.

Black Pines residents pay the full $100 per month, or $300 per quarter, for water tolls, and the parcel tax. In addition, they pay penalties if they use more water than the amount provided for within the regular tolls.

“Why haven’t we had grants to upgrade?”

In December, $30,000 was approved from gas tax funding for replacement of leaking valves and service lines, and LED lighting upgrades, for the Pritchard water system. Gas tax funding is provided by the federal government, administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and distributed to local governments. The TNRD divides its annual share among electoral areas, with each area director making recommendations to the board for worthy projects.

Last July, $306,666 in federal-provincial infrastructure funding was announced for upgrades to equipment at the Pritchard wastewater treatment facility. In this case, it wasn’t necessary for Pritchard residents to pay the local one-third share through additional taxation, as it was available from surplus and reserves.

From time to time, other grants are made but those are the two that come to mind this past year.

“Before the TNRD took us over, there was green space and the TNRD sold that space.”

I’m not aware of green space within the development having been disposed of and I’ll have to look into that one (and would appreciate hearing more from any residents who are aware of it), but I’m aware of concerns about maintenance of the unofficial park/beach area by the bridge and am hopeful a partnership between the TNRD and provincial ministries can be worked out for a pilot project this fall. That space is Crown land. As always, the cost and possible sources of funding will be a consideration.

I welcome other questions and will get answers as they come up, either via email, by phone, or here on the blog.

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