qathet Regional District (qRD) directors have been requested to commit a fixed percentage of its community works fund to infrastructure projects directly related to water quality.
At the January 13 qRD committee of the whole meeting, Chuck Childress, chair of the Gillies Bay Improvement District, appeared as a delegation, indicating he was looking for a policy change by the regional board for the use of the community works fund grant.
“Where I am coming from is there are a number of rural communities within the regional district that have issues meeting the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and provincial/federal water standards,” said Childress. “The senior levels of government, when they hand the money out, one of the priorities is water, and the rural communities meet the criteria for accessing the fund, but when it gets down to the regional district level, the rural communities really don’t stand much of a chance getting the funds.”
Childress said within the Gillies Bay district, roughly 50 per cent of the residents of Electoral Area D dwell there. He said that is 50 per cent of the tax base that is collected from the residents of this community.
“What we really should be doing is building community throughout the rural areas, and one of the ways of building communities is to make sure everyone has safe, clean drinking water,” said Childress. “What I’m asking is that the board amend its policy on outside agencies and dedicate a percentage of community works fund grants each and every year to improving the water quality in the rural communities.”
Childress said the money should be expended on capital projects in rural communities, with the ultimate goal being that every rural community water system eventually meets the VCH standard. He said it’s going to take some time and he is suggesting 25 per cent of the community works fund be expended in this way.
“The rural communities are caught in a Catch-22 in that the easy solution might be opting into the regional district, because we are eligible, because now we are not an outside agency,” said Childress. “But, the discussions that I’ve heard is that the regional district doesn’t want to take in any water systems that do not meet the drinking water standard.”
Childress said he believes his suggestion is a relatively simple way to allow rural communities to meet obligations for safe, clean drinking water for the ratepayers.
Electoral Area D director and committee chair Sandy McCormick said there was a motion at the qRD finance committee meeting asking for a review of policies for distribution of community works funds.
Chief administrative officer Al Radke said something to that effect is on the books.
McCormick said the discussion is in the works.
The community works fund, part of the Canada community-building fund, often referred to as the federal gas tax fund, provides funding to local governments in BC for investment in infrastructure and capacity building projects, according to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) website.