Water meters in Sechelt have the backing of Mayor Darnelda Siegers, who voted in favour of moving ahead with a recommendation by Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) staff to fold two projects into an alternative approval process – water meter installations and the Church Road wells.
“I think it’s something we need to have happen. We need to get this complete so that we can get a complete picture of the water usage on the Sunshine Coast,” said Siegers at a May 16 SCRD infrastructure committee meeting.
Sechelt and the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) are holdouts in a years-long project to have water meters universally installed on the Sunshine Coast. Last July directors abandoned a bylaw that would have authorized a $6-million long-term loan to pay for the installations after a failed alternative approval process (AAP).
“We all know I think that Sechelt was the one that defeated the AAP,” said Siegers at the meeting.
“The majority of the residents felt that until additional supply was identified and in process at the regional district they would not be in support of the water meters. I’d like to think that they now see we are doing work around that and the AAP would be successful.”
Since that failed AAP, the SCRD has moved ahead with a groundwater sourcing project and has honed in on a potential site to drill one or several wells near Church Road in Granthams Landing, which could result in a significant reduction in the Sunshine Coast’s water deficit.
Staff recommended trying for another AAP that would authorize the financing of both water meter installation and the wells – assuming the directors vote to move ahead with that project after they get more accurate cost estimates later this year.
Siegers wasn’t the only one to vocally support this option. Roberts Creek director Andreas Tize blamed the failure of the last AAP on “a lack of information available on all sides.”
“Since the AAP we now have a supply deficit study so we now know how big the hole is and the cost of the alternatives,” he said, calling the wells and meters the “lowest hanging fruit,” which would convince people to move ahead with meters, given the cost of alternatives.
Both Siegers and Tize stressed that communication with the public would be crucial to the AAP’s success.
Sechelt director Tom Lamb was more reticent. He acknowledged they had to move ahead with meters, but wanted to see fewer installed. “I just look at meters, and I go, it’s more infrastructure. You put a meter on it, you’re going to have to replace it.”
There are 4,800 water services in the District of Sechelt and SIGD and 1,200 of those already have meters installed, with most of them needing upgrades so they can transmit data.
Directors voted unanimously to move ahead with the AAP option.
The latest estimate puts the project cost at either $6.6 million if the SCRD hires a contractor or $10.4 million if the SCRD installs them inhouse. According to a January report, the estimated cost of developing the Church Road wells would be $3.1 million.
Last week’s staff report also indicated that other elements of the universal water meter project still needed to be developed, including a rate structure and billing review with public consultation.
Meanwhile, acting CAO Angie Legault acknowledged there was “a campaign among some individuals choosing not to pay their bills” until supply is established.
She later confirmed with Coast Reporter that the while the SCRD is not tracking the amount of correspondence received, she estimates they have “about a dozen comments in that regard,” including verbal ones.