Saltair residents being asked to weigh in on water upgrades

Saltair residents are being asked if they support spending $4.5 million on water system upgrades in their area.

Saltair residents are being asked if they support spending $4.5 million on water system upgrades in their area.

“The system has several problems,” Saltair Director Mel Dorey explained. “It has old pipes in many places, and it has high pressures and low pressures that we want to smooth out to have a desired pressure.”

The upgrades will also eliminate dead ends in the system, maintaining fresh water at all times by looping the lines.

During a recent public meeting, Saltair residents present voted between 80 and 90 per cent in favour of taking the proposal to petition. That means 50 per cent of Saltair property owners — representing 50 per cent of the area’s land value — have to support the upgrade when volunteer canvassers come knocking on their doors.

“There’s about 830-something properties, so we have to get more than 400 people signed up,” Dorey said.

Lynne Smith might not be one of those people.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to upgrade the water system. On the contrary, she’d like to see the entire system overhauled.

“From an overall planning perspective, it is better to incorporate upgrades needed for the whole system over a longer time period rather than piecemeal fixes for only the most desperately required areas,” she wrote in a letter to the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial.

A complete overhaul of the system would cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $13 million, she said.

“Unfortunately, this important (idea) was not explored at the meeting, and no payment analysis was provided.”

The breakdown for the $4.5-million upgrades — to about a third of the system — includes a monthly increase of $358/year per Saltair tax parcel for 15 years.

Smith would like to see the petition include the option of the $13-million overhaul paid for over 30 years.

But Dorey said that while there are issues with older sections of the system — built in the 1960s — there are also relatively-modern pipes serving newer streets and subdivisions in the system.

“And the reason we chose to go gradually rather than borrow the whole amount is because each year we can apply for grants — and some years, you’re lucky and get one, so that’s money the taxpayers of Saltair won’t have to pay,” Dorey added. “I think we made the right choice, and we can always revisit it.”

If the petition process is successful, Dorey said work would happen in the 2013 tax year, although if a grant came in, some work would start earlier.

To learn more, call the CVRD at 250-746-2500.