Board supports UBCM resolution on water funding

RIVERSHORE — A resolution will be going from the TNRD to the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September supporting access to gas-tax funding for not-for-profit strata councils and not-for-profit private utilities.

After considerable debate, the TNRD approved my motion on the issue by a vote of 14-10 at a board meeting Thursday, June 15, 2017.

For the past two years, I’ve been working with the Rivershore Estates strata council to get clarity on whether stratas qualify for access to federal gas-tax funds. Rivershore’s water system needs upgrades and the strata council asked for support in obtaining federal funding.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod has also been assisting. The question of whether strata developments qualify is  a new one for the UBCM, which administers the gas-tax program for the federal government in B.C. The UBCM initially indicated Rivershore wouldn’t be eligible because it’s considered private, and there’s a requirement that projects be for public use and benefit.

My view is that stratas obviously differ in structure from TNRD-operated utilities but that their water systems serve a similar purpose in that they provide an essential service to the members of a community and are of public benefit in the same way as regional-district utilities.

Last September, I met with the UBCM in Victoria and made the case for Rivershore. The UBCM reviewed the matter and brought forward some updated guidelines a few weeks ago intended to address the strata issue in general. Unfortunately, those guidelines still didn’t provide clear direction.

MP McLeod offered to arrange a meeting between the TNRD and a federal infrastructure rep in Ottawa during the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention, and I took up the offer. I wasn’t in attendance at the FCM but TNRD chair John Ranta and TNRD CEO Sukh Gill agreed to attend the meeting on my behalf.

Unfortunately, last week the answer came back that Rivershore would not be considered eligible. I then crafted a motion for the annual general UBCM meeting that, if approved there, would go to the provincial government asking it to lobby the federal government to change the eligibility criteria. Thursday was the last possible day to consider my motion before the deadline for resolutions to the UBCM.

Several City of Kamloops councillors opposed my motion — which was seconded by Electoral Area J Director Ronaye Elliott, who has a not-for-profit private water system in her area — based on concerns it would deplete the funding available to the City, though I explained that wasn’t the case.

Gas-tax funds that are provided to the TNRD are allotted to each electoral area based on population. The City of Kamloops receives gas-tax funding through a totally separate stream. Gas-tax grants are individually approved by the board on recommendations from electoral-area directors.

It’s unfortunate the whole process has taken so long, but I remain hopeful that our senior governments will see the wisdom of allowing residents of strata communities and other not-for-profit utilities to have the same access to this funding that other communities enjoy.

Following is the wording of my motion, seconded by Director Elliott:

WHEREAS Federal Gas Tax funding is available to local governments under the Community Works Fund for capital infrastructure and capacity building including water and sewer utilities but excludes not-for-profit strata councils and not-for-profit private utility systems that act as purveyors of utility services to their communities from accessing these funds;

AND WHEREAS the costs of providing water and sewer services to rural property owners are becoming increasingly prohibitive;

AND WHEREAS not-for-profit strata councils and not-for-profit private utility systems construct and maintain utility services comparable to those provided within service areas established by local governments;

AND WHEREAS, unlike their local government service area counterparts, those utility ratepayers are currently responsible for the entire costs of construction, maintenance and necessary upgrades of these community utilities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the provincial government be requested to lobby the federal government to amend the Federal Gas Tax Agreement by making not-for-profit strata councils and not-for-profit private utility systems eligible to access and utilize gas tax funding for construction and improvements to water and sewer utilities, and other capital projects that provide community benefits within the criteria otherwise set out in the gas tax-community works fund agreement.

 

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