New Denver Council, Sept. 27: voting on water system borrowing, saving the HJT

The Village of New Denver is setting up a backup financing plan for much-need improvements to the Village’s water system. Village staff have been directed to hold an ‘alternative approval process’ vote to see if voters are opposed to taking out a nearly $1.2 million loan to finance the project, if it can’t be paid for by grants.

The Village has already tried once – and failed—to get funding for the project, which would see the relocation of the town’s water source wells. Staff say the project is needed to improve and protect water quality, increase flow and capacity, add redundancy and ensure the town’s ability to meet future demands.

After the first grant application in 2020 was turned down, the Village applied to a different program. They’re still waiting to hear the results of the second application, but on the chance it’s rejected, council still says the project has to be completed. As a backup financing measure, it passed a bylaw earlier this year approving a 25-year, $1.19 million loan to cover the cost of the project. But that borrowing bylaw still needs to get public assent.

Instead of a referendum, the Village is holding an alternate approval process. Under that voting method, only people opposed to the project need cast a ballot. If more than 10% of the voters (about 57 people) object, the measure fails and the Village can hold a referendum.

The notice of the alternate approval process is on page 20.

Slocan Ave Watermain Loop delay

Acting on advice from consultants, Village council is putting off improvements to the town’s water main to the spring, after bids for the project came in well over budget.

The Village wants to create a closed loop of the Slocan Avenue water main, in order to provide redundancy in the lines to ensure continuity of providing water. And they were hoping to get the project done this fall. But when the project went out to tender, the valid bids came back more than $100,000 over the budget projected by TRUE Consultants, who’ve been working with the Village on the project.

TRUE Consulting has recommended that the Village reject all tenders and re-tender the project early next year with a few changes, including adjusting the completion date to spring 2023. TRUE said there could be benefits to re-tendering the project in 2023: it may result in lower tender submissions, as contractors have time to consider and plan next years’ work schedules instead of rushing to complete it this year. It will also be better for the town’s financial planning.

Council accepted the consultant recommendation and rejected all the bids received.

Saving the House of Joyful Tidings

After an initial presentation to council in June, the Friends of the Orchard returned with a more detailed proposal to save the historic House of Joyful Tidings building. This proposal, to move the internment-era building to the entrance of the municipal campground and convert it to the campground host’s accommodation, garnered approval in principle from council.

A preliminary budget for the project, including relocation of the building, and major renovations and upgrades done to the siding, structure and wiring, comes to about $50,000 – still less than building a whole new structure for the same purpose, the group notes. The Village could even make some money in the process.

“In the past, campground hosts have been expected to provide their own accommodations in the form of a trailer or 5th wheel unit, but this requirement both limits the choice of operator applicants to those with such units and takes up a camping space that could be generating revenue,” says the staff report. “Therefore, there are advantages to having operator accommodation provided by the Village, and there may also be potential for renting such roofed accommodation in the off-season.”

The Friends said they would begin work to get grant funding and private contributions to cover moving and restoration costs. They asked that the Village assume ownership, covering insurance and costs related to developing and maintaining the interior for accommodation/office use (insulation, plumbing, electrical, furnishing, etc.).

Planning would proceed collaboratively, and each party would support grant funding applications by the other. The building would not be placed on Village property until grant funding is secured and a building permit is approved and proceeding.

Council gave approval in principle and asked for further investigation into the cost of restoration and completion of the project. Village staff will meet with the community group to refine the plan, which council will review again in the future.

Asset Management report

A new report and map of the Village’s infrastructure will be an excellent tool in the future for grant applications, says Mayor Leonard Casley.

The report shows the combined replacement value of the town’s infrastructure – water, sewer, buildings, firefighting and emergency equipment, parks, etc. – to be about $15.4 million.

The report then looks at how likely those things can fail, and how serious those failures would be. Based on that formula, about half the Village’s assets (54%) are at low risk of failure and would have low impact if they failed. About 26% of the assets are medium risk, medium impact; and 17% are at higher risk of failure, with a higher impact if they failed. Only 1.69% of the Village’s assets are in the highest-risk, highest-impact range of failure.

The report will help the Village plan out where and how much to invest in infrastructure maintenance and replacement.

Casley noted that the town shouldn’t get complacent that so much of its infrastructure is low-risk.

“The danger is that we can look at the ‘low risk’ areas (coloured green in the report) and do nothing,” he said. “But there is a price to pay for that down the road – we need to stay on top of this type of map and realize that infrastructure needs attention, otherwise you will see a sea of red on the map instead of a mostly green.”

CAO Scott said the contract with the consultants that drew up the report and maps will have them train Village staff learn how to manage their assets in the future.

Federal and provincial governments require municipalities to have such plans in order to apply for grants in the future.

Bear issues

Councillors held a fulsome discussion on the impact of bears around town, and outlined the damage and danger they present when frequenting populated areas, including the campground. While council agreed many people were taking measure to avoid bear contact, those measures did not seem to be effective.

Councillors said the Village needs additional resources to address the bear problem within the town limits. It was suggested the Village retract its Bear Smart Community status and instead seek assistance from the Conservation Officer Service of BC.

The topic will be further discussed at the next council meeting.

Margaret Scaia, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice