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Water & Sewerage Utility Costs – Mismanagement

North Vancouver City Water & Sewerage Utility Costs – are reviewed and set on an annual basis. These rates are benchmarked by the City against the District’s of North and West Vancouver, as a function of taxpayer cost, but not in a manner that provides a proper comparative analysis on a dollars per kilometer serviced, gallons of water delivered, housing units connected, or miles of pipe operated basis. Thus we have no accurate performance measurement to determine the efficiency of City operations versus District operations. We tell ourselves we operating better, smarter, safer, more efficiently, but we close our eyes to any benchmarking process to confirm the truth of the City’s performance versus our neighbours.

Yes, the City’s residents pay less for water, sewerage and refuse collection services than either of our two neighbouring Districts. However, the difference in rates paid by City residents versus the rates paid by each neighbouring District discloses the City is operating in a very inefficient manner. When you examine the vastly larger size of both neighbouring District’s, the number of service connections in each, the variations in population, the difference in terrain, these data points disclose that both our North Shore neighbours are far more efficient than the City in all but the most basic of comparisons, that being fees charged.

Matters are made worse when you consider that the highly concentrated nature of our City should allow for efficiencies neither of the neighbouring two District’s can ever hope to achieve. Those efficiencies should give us a clear cost advantage, yet proper analysis discloses that we are the least efficient when analysed using any reasonable indices.

The current financial plan for water, sewerage and refuse is that rates will increase annually by 9.0% – 10.00% per year, for the next 10 years. These increases do not include the Waste Water Treatment Plant (“WWTP”) replacement costs which are as yet undetermined. These rate increases as disclosed are simply unsustainable. The net effect on City taxpayer is that a Single-family homeowners will go from paying $682 annually to paying $1,482 annually in 2023. The City’s utility bill to each single family home owner resident is going up by $4,107 over the next 10 years. I can think of a lot of better ways to spend $4,107, can’t you?” See Council Video Feed:

See also Council Video Feed:

Through further and better cooperation with our neighbouring District’s, we may be able to hold the line on some of these proposed increases.

The biggest unknown for every resident of the North Shore, is the WWTP replacement project. The Lions Gate facility is situated on lands leased from the Squamish Indian Band under a Federal Lease, and we must vacate these lands by 2020. The new site selected, which is located at the foot of Pemberton, on Welch (the old BC Rail truck terminal yard), is ready for project start. The obstacle is now funding which is estimated at approximately $750 million. The Metro funding model which had been envisioned was 1/3 Federal, 1/3 Provincial, and 1/3 Metro, with the three North Shore municipalities paying approximately 40 per cent of the regional (“Metro”)share.

The newly announced Federal funding scheme compels the model to consider a P-3 partnership in order to access the federal grant portion of the monies. While I have always had a private sector focus and mind-set, I confess I am hard-pressed to understand how a P-3 model is going to create savings for this project. The public sector has access to lower cost money, and the GVRD has many years of experience designing and operating these systems. It goes without saying that the construction would fall to private sector contractors, but beyond that aspect, I need to be convinced that the P-3 solution will add value and lower cost for tax-payers, and not just profits for well connected corporate proponents of the project. However, I pledge to keep an open mind, and cast the City’s vote in a manner which best addresses the long term interests of the City and it’s residents.

IT  IS  MY  POSITION  THAT in relation to water, sewerage and refuse:

  1. The City should look to engage in better cooperation in the management, planning and maintenance of our fresh water service systems with the District’s; and
  2. The City should look to engage in better cooperation in the management, planning and maintenance of our sewerage systems with the District’s; and
  3. The City should look to engage in better cooperation in the management, planning and service delivery of our refuse operations with the District’s; and
  4. The City should look to find more and better ways of cost containment in the operation of all three of these utility services to City residents by whatever sensible management systems, mechanisms and methods are available; and
  5. The City should ensure that the funding solutions selected by Metro for replacement of the Lions Gate WWTP do not burden City and District residents with excessive capital and/or operating costs, simply to satisfy P-3 idiological objectives currently held by this federal government. Whatever method of funding the replacement facility is eventually selected, it should be on the basis that it resolves the regions needs, at the lowest possible cost to all captive users of the system.

When I find myself in a position to effect these changes, the policies and principals setout above will guide my decision-making.

What do you think?

What do you think about my position on Water & Sewerage Utility Costs – Mismanagement?

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