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Letter Regarding Trobak Water Tower Project

A letter from the Council of the Village of Telkwa to our residents.

Dear Telkwa residents,

Telkwa received notification on March 11th that we had received funding approval for our Trobak Water Tower project, under the Small Communities Fund.

                Initially, upon receiving a phone call from Minister Fassbender informing us of the approval, we were ecstatic. Our anticipation was that we had been approved under our most recent application funding model of the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. (This fund would require a Village of Telkwa contribution of approximately $450,000) Subsequently, when we discovered that the approval was for the Small Communities Fund, and that our application to the CWWF had been shifted over to the Small Communities fund without consulting or informing the Village, we were devastated. This funding model would require a Telkwa contribution of over $400,000 more.

                What has changed from April of 2016 when we applied under the 2/3 funding model of the Small Communities fund to our current situation in March of 2017? The answer lies in the asset management work that we have conducted in the past year. Asset management is now an established requirement for communities to apply for Federal Gas Tax funding, and we have embraced that. We received our first study related to this last October, and held a Town Hall meeting dedicated to this information. (Opus DaytonKnight; ‘Utilities Life-cycle Practices Assessment’). This study illustrated a needed shift in funding allocation to our water and sewer systems. Subsequently, we commissioned three other studies- a water treatment assessment, a water and sanitary sewer utility review, and a study on the ‘downstream’ effects on our system relating to the new tower construction. We received the water treatment assessment and presented the results at the March 14th COW meeting. This study revealed nearly $150,000 in urgently needed work to ensure the quality of the water we are currently supplying. We received the water and sanitary sewer utility review recently, and it clearly illustrates, again, a needed shift in funding allocation to these systems to ensure long-term sustainability. Finally, we will receive the downstream study later in the year, but there is little doubt that it will reveal further costs to the Village. The cumulative effect of these costs, without a beneficial funding agreement with the provincial and federal governments, would potentially increase our average property taxation and charges per household from the current $3,500 a year to between $4,500 and $5,000.

                The information that we have received from these studies is precisely why we went ‘back to the drawing board’ in terms of how to move forward with these projects. As a Village, we need to constantly balance the taxation implications to our residents with the need to move forward with these essential projects. The bottom line is this; when the Village’s financial situation and ability to generate revenues is taken in context with the provincial revenue transfers, property tax bases, and resource revenue sharing agreements with other communities, it is clear that the fair way forward is for the Village to receive the maximum level of support.

                The timeline of our initial decision was based on the response timeline given to approve the funding agreement. Although it took eleven months from the time we applied to learn that we had been funded, the Village was given only ten days to respond. We have now been approved for an extension on this deadline that will allow us to provide all information to residents in a Town Hall format.

                While it is clearly disappointing to be in this situation, we are committed to working with and providing the new information to the funding administrators. Our goal is to move forward with the engineering and archaeological assessment portion (Phase 1) of the project under the Small Communities fund. This will have a negative impact on Telkwa residents of approximately $30,000 as compared to the CWWF funding model, but it will get us to the ‘shovel ready’ stage in preparation for construction. We will also prepare an application to the UBCM Gas Tax fund for 100% funding of the capital construction of the tower.

                We have a very strong case that we should be approved under this funding model. We will emphasize this case at every juncture of our submissions and negotiations with UBCM and the provincial and federal governments, and we know that what we are asking for is both fair and long overdue. Our long-standing contributions to our local, provincial and federal economies is well established, our property taxation rates (93% residential) are among the highest in B.C. of communities our size, and yet we have very low per-capita spending which is unfairly handicapping our community in pursuing future development and core infrastructure sustainability. We have compared our situation to the District of Taylor, B.C. Taylor is a very similar community in terms of population, demographics, and proximity to a larger hub. (Fort St. John) Even though Taylor sees the benefit of having over $10 million in the bank and receives an additional million dollars annually through the Peace River Agreement, it was Taylor, and not Telkwa, that was approved for an additional million dollars in grant funding through the CWWF. Our stance is that without addressing this inequity, the province has entrenched a system of first and second class citizens in British Columbia. Telkwa residents are clearly being treated as second class citizens.

                There is a fair, viable and sustainable way forward for our Village. It involves two key initiatives- a fair funding agreement for the Trobak water tower project, and a fair revenue sharing agreement (North West Resource Benefits Alliance) that provides revenue from the many industries that utilize Telkwa as a waypoint and hub for their activities without providing any revenue to the Village. Once we’ve come to an agreement with the Province on these requests, then we will be able to grow, diversify and develop our community. We will be able to forge a model community with strong participation in a diversified economy.

                Our request of our residents is this; please get involved! Please contact your representatives locally, provincially and federally and share your thoughts on the impacts of these decisions on your families, your personal budgets, and your vision for the future of Telkwa. We will be sharing and promoting opportunities for you to support the Village of Telkwa in the near future.

Sincerely,

Darcy Repen (Mayor) on behalf of the Council of the Village of Telkwa

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