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No geothermal for Parkland Phase 3, decision on compensation delayed

Gibsons director of engineering Dave Newman explains recommendations on the next steps for the Town-owned geothermal utility.

Gibsons council has decided to exclude Park-land Phase 3 from the requirement to connect to the Town-owned geothermal system, the Gibsons and District Energy Utility (GDEU).

The 3-2 vote Tuesday night, with councillors Silas White and Stafford Lumley opposed, followed council’s review of a report on the problems that forced a shutdown of the system during a cold snap earlier this year.

Council was unanimous, however, in its decision to bring in Altum Engineering Ltd., a Vancouver Island firm, to complete modifications to the system to improve its efficiency and reliability and develop a monitoring and management program.

Lumley argued that with the work to deal with the issues that led to the system failure now in hand, there’s no reason to call off the expansion.

“I think we know what happened wrong, and we’ve analyzed it to death. We know what we have to do better … I think that the larger thing is the vision of the community,” he said. “Just abandoning Phase 3 sets Phase 1 and 2 afloat and creates a ripple in this so-called green community. I just don’t see how going backwards is the right choice here.”

White had a similar view. He acknowledged there is some risk in going forward with Phase 3, but not enough to stop the expansion. “I feel the schedule can be complementary with rectifying the problem in the first two phases,” he said.

Coun. Jeremy Valeriote, on the other hand, said he doesn’t think cancelling the expansion diminishes the goal of having a green community, and that council needs to heed the staff analysis. “I need to hear something very convincing to go against staff advice on something that they know intimately and have been dealing with – and I haven’t heard that.”

The council chamber was packed with Parkland residents for a committee meeting earlier in the day where council reviewed the preliminary report on the problems with the system, and discussed compensation for residents who had to use costly back-up heat during some of the coldest days of the year.

The Town has so far received claims from residents to help cover hydro bills running from about $383 to nearly $850. The strata corporation for the Gerussi Lane property where a fluid leak was detected is also asking for $2,191 to cover repairs to a valve box, and $357 in contractor costs.

During the public inquiry period, strata president David Hayward asked if the Town has reviewed whether the valve that was found to be leaking actually met standards, and questions around what equipment in the valve box is the responsibility of the Town or the strata. He was told it’s still being looked into.

The GDEU charges about $50 per month, and director of finance Ian Poole suggested council consider rebating all property owners for their December 2016 to March 2017 bills at a total cost of $10,000.

Councillors, though, said they wanted to hold off on a decision about compensation and consider whether a broad refund, or dealing with it case-by-case, is more appropriate.

“I’m going to need to think about this a little bit more,” said Coun. Charlene SanJenko. “There’s so much more information coming forward and potentially more requests for invoices to be repaid coming forward from other residents. That was the understanding I had, that as we received requests to be repaid for different things that was how we were handling it … I wasn’t expecting an across-the-board $10,000 bill.”