LETTER: Trust in RDOS lost during budget night in rural Oliver

LETTER: Trust in RDOS lost during budget night in rural Oliver

Finance manager Maureen Hayter presents the Area C budget to residents during a public meeting at the Willowbrook Fire Hall Monday night. At left is Area C director Terry Schafer. (Photo Lyonel Doherty)

This is my take on the Area C budget meeting on Jan. 29.

I did not do a count but I would estimate 25 to 30 displeased people. I am particularly displeased with the RDOS as they spent considerable money on a study by MMM Group consulting which was then put in my hands to go and sell these numbers to the residents.

It took some doing as many did not trust the RDOS and I have to admit their distrust was proven that night.

I, of course, kept copies of all the documents. The plan included many capital improvements to the Willowbrook water system, a time frame and costs layout inside the time frame and costs with different levels of the grants that would only be available if the RDOS took the system over. That grant possibility was used as a reason to indicate the RDOS would be the most economical choice; no other options were even considered after that and the promised upgrades in the MMM report were put forward.

To date, none of the first-year goals have been undertaken and one of those goals the SCADA system is being talked about and is being attributed in part to this 130 per cent cost increase along with administration, operations, and maintenance cost (which was factored in the original report) as the reason for this increase.

There were three more items in the first year and another three spread over the course of 15 years. At the end, the total cost per household if the residents took over the system and received no grant funding was estimated to be $669.23 plus $300 for operations and maintenance, for a total of $969.23.

In fairness, water treatment is now on the table but there are no definitives as yet so a cost cannot be attached yet.

With the RDOS taking over the total cost with the potential of full grant funding was to be a total of $520.85. The RDOS is now telling us that to cover operations and maintenance and potential SCADA costs it will cost each household $1,008 a year. Really?

I worked for one of the largest construction companies in the world and had I ever been in control of a job where the operations and maintenance  portion was underestimated by that much, non-insurable unemployment would have been in my immediate future (for lack of due diligence in not checking my subordinate’s numbers for such a glaring error).

This increase did not include any of the still recommended upgrades that if we apply the same formula to will at minimum increase the yearly household water rate to a number greater than $3,000 per year.

We should remember that the system was run by the Johnson family for 30 years with very little increases. The cost per household up to 18 months ago was $300 per year plus $85 for any additional sprinklers. At that rate a modest surplus was established of, if I remember right, $22,000. That was turned over to the RDOS when they assumed control of the system.

The water contamination issue is being blamed on the flooding from last year, but if I remember the boil water notice came about prior to the flooding.

There are numerous residents that have their own wells for irrigation and have stayed on the system so as not to run pumps through the winter months (two-tier power). Irrigation in an interface area is critical to fire prevention and many of these will now be forced to leave the system.

Do we wonder anymore why government bodies have come to be held in such low esteem and distrust?

Rick Knodel, Area C alternate director