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Cost of water upgrade not popular

By Judie Steeves – Kelowna Capital News September 26, 2012

There is a move to defeat the South East Kelowna Irrigation District’s proposal to borrow $15.3 million towards a $22.3 million improvement to the water system.

The board has embarked on an alternate approval system instead of going the more-costly route of holding a referendum, to get ratepayers’ approval for the 10-year project.

SEKID seeks $15.3 million

It involves twinning the district’s water infrastructure, so that clear water goes to domestic connections, but current water quality serves agricultural connections.

A steady stream of residents attended Tuesday’s open house on the issue and the utility has begun to receive Elector Response Forms from those opposed to the idea.

SEKID manager Toby Pike says lots of those at the meeting said they don’t disagree with the project, but they don’t see why the local taxpayers have to foot the whole bill when other areas have received provincial grants towards such improvement projects.

The work is needed because Interior Health requires this level of protection for drinking water in all systems serving more than 500 people.

It will cost each ratepayer more than in some areas because of the rural nature of SEKID, with few residents spread out and around lots of agricultural land.

In order for the proposal to be defeated, 10 per cent of the district’s estimated 3,309 eligible landowners, or 330 property-owners, must submit completed forms to the district office before Oct. 25.

One of those who intends to do so is a former board member who has served 18 years as a trustee, David Stirling, who says he is opposed to borrowing so much money with the small community base there is in SEKID.

“I don’t think the community should have to bear the full cost,” he said. “Because we live in a rural community we’re at a disadvantage. Interior Health is pushing us to upgrade but we have a small residential base to pay that cost. We should qualify for infrastructure grant funding, but there’s none available right now,” he commented. “It’s not fair.”

He admits he’s not sure what the board would be able to do if it’s defeated, since this is the lowest cost option of all those recommended by Associated Engineering in a report for the board on alternatives.

“I believe it will fail and I’m not sure what they’ll have to do next,” he said.

The board continues to lobby the province to support the project with a grant towards the cost of the upgrade.

Two more open houses are being held to discuss the issue: Mon., Oct. 1 at Gallagher’s Canyon Clubhouse 2-9 p.m. and Wed., Oct. 3, Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club, 4-9 p.m.

Forms are available online on the SEKID website or from the office for those opposed to the proposal.

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