Hello, Bowen Island. I’ve been speaking with many of you recently about current issues at the Municipality, so I thought it might be helpful for a wider audience in the community to hear from me directly. Thus, I’ll be writing to you occasionally with something along the lines of a Mayoral newsletter. I, along with my colleagues on Council and the staff at Bowen Island Municipality, want to do our best to make sure you have accessible and up-to-date information about issues that affect you. I hope that you will find Gary’s Corner informative and useful.
Snug Cove sewer. In January, I released a video message talking about the challenges we’re currently facing, so I wanted to give an update on this situation. The system is at capacity and at risk of overflow, and in January we were in the very difficult position of putting a moratorium on issuing building permits to properties that wanted to connect to the sewer. Since then, we’ve been working on a priority basis to come up with a solution that will serve in the short-term and the longer term to address the capacity issue. Efforts have been made to reduce the amount of stormwater and groundwater entering the sewer collection system by rehabilitating the points that staff have been able to identify.
The upgrades to the sewer system can happen in two phases. Phase 1 will include increasing the equalization storage in the wastewater treatment plant and will enable the plant to operate at its full capacity. In reviewing the Phase 1 upgrades, we determined that the five residential properties that were awaiting their building permits can begin their builds and connect to the sewer as planned.
Once Phase 1 upgrades are completed, we will conduct a review to determine how much capacity there is in the system to see if we can accommodate additional connections from existing properties, such as those in the Fox Glove Lane and Cates Hill area.
We can start looking at Phase 2 around this time next year. Phase 2 will advance the sewer system capacity to accommodate any additional anticipated development over the next 20 years.
Now for the financing. In January, we approved $1.6 million to fund Phase 1, and this will come from our Capital Renewal and Replacement Fund as well as Accumulated Surplus. Now, this is a decision we did not take lightly. Generally, these funds are used for assets that benefit the entire community and not just a local utility area. But we feel this was the right thing to do, because these upgrades are necessary - not just for the new properties who want to connect to the sewer, but to ensure we remain within our permit under Municipal wastewater regulations. This work must go ahead, and it is proceeding without delay. The sewer system is integral to many of Council’s priorities for Snug Cove, and it’s the home for many of the amenities and public services that the community relies upon. It's fair that some of the costs to upgrade the system be attributed to all taxpayers, but it’s also fair that the property owners within the service area that receive the direct benefit of the service, should pay a portion.
That’s why we’ve asked staff to go back to the drawing board and come up with a financing plan that ensures the work can go ahead now, and we can collect some of the costs of the project back later. Staff have been tasked with determining how much of a share of project costs should be paid directly by property owners within the boundary of the Sewer District, and those that should be paid Island wide. Our Chief Financial Officer will develop a financing strategy that allows for the Local Service Area portion to be repaid in some combination of user fees and parcel taxes over time, perhaps a period of 5-10 years.
This plan will be brought forward for Council consideration at the next Council meeting on March 28, so be sure to tune in to get the details.
Construction on Bowen Island Trunk Road. We anticipated that the construction of the Multi-Use Path (MUP) on this stretch would be completed by now, but as we can all see it has been delayed. This is because when we started excavation, we discovered some problems with drainage under the north side of the road. You may recall in December when a sinkhole appeared on the sidewalk outside of Village Square. This was due to a collapse of the stormwater system, which is now fixed in that section, but is at risk of happening on the other side of the road too. We’ve explored the possibility of coordinating storm system upgrades with the MUP and confirmed that each project can proceed separately. Completion of the MUP will continue soon.
You may be wondering, just like I did, why we don’t just pivot from spending money on building the new Multi-Use Path to spending it on fixing this drainage issue? Well, the funding for the MUP work is from grants that are specific to advancing active transportation, so unfortunately that’s not an option this time. We’re looking at every possibility within our means to determine the best way forward, and this will be a subject of an upcoming Council meeting.
Now on to the ambulance service. If you watched the Council meeting on March 14, you will have seen Council’s extreme disappointment when we learned that there were multiple unstaffed shifts at our ambulance station in the month of March, meaning emergency ambulance service would be compromised to Bowen Islanders. BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is currently relying on the Bowen Island Volunteer Fire Department to provide ambulance drivers when they don’t have a paramedic on-island capable of driving. As far as we are concerned this is unacceptable. This essentially means the BCEHS would not be fulfilling its mandate to provide a service that’s expected and mandatory. We resolved to escalate our concerns with the powers that be until this matter is resolved. This is an extremely serious situation and I’m not willing to let it go.
Happily, at the time of writing this letter, we have heard informally from BCEHS that shifts will be fully staffed going forward, and we are now working on getting this confirmed in writing. Getting things back to where they should be is our goal and expectation. Stay tuned for updates on this very important issue.
I really do appreciate everyone’s interest in these and other Municipal matters - and there’s always a lot more going on. I value your opinions and input, about these and the more positive outcomes that we are celebrating regularly. The beginning of the Community Centre construction is one of those good news stories, and the beautiful community art project of the Snug Cove Gateway Mural is another. I invite you to peruse our website (bowenislandmunicipality.ca) to learn all the ways you can connect with us here at the Muni, by subscribing to our e-newsletter, following our social media channels, and reading page 2 of the Undercurrent every week.
Thanks for reading this edition of Gary’s Corner. I look forward to connecting with you through this avenue on a more regular basis.
Mayor Gary Ander