City of West Kelowna staff hope to deliver the final piece of the puzzle next week surrounding the go-ahead of the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant.
Staff will give an update report to council next week outlining where the project is at and the best option for financing the cost and how it will impact domestic water users impacted by the new plant.
Paul Gipps, chief administrative officer for the City of West Kelowna, said there have been delays in getting the project to this point, but it has to ultimately proceed because Interior Health has demanded the water plant be built as part of the city’s water purveyor licensing.
The new plant will serve 12,000 people living in the Lakeview Water System area and 6,000 people within the West Kelowna, Pritchard and Sunnyside water systems.
The city has received federal support (50 per cent of the project costs under the Clean Water Wastewater Fund), provincial support (33 per cent) with the city picking up the remaining 17 per cent of the cost.
The project hit roadblocks when a plan to obtain the rights to use Crown land at the end of Rosewood Drive to house the plant failed to reach a deal after more than a year of back-and-forth negotiations.
That left the city having to seek out another location, purchasing 24 acres of land on Bartley Road, a cost of $915,000, which was more than what the Crown land option would have cost.
It also placed the grant funding for the question in doubt because the city was going to exceed the timeline for the project in particular the CWWF funding was based on.
Other complications included dealing with flooding issues in 2017 and 2018 which occupied city resources, and the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the closure of the city hall office for a month as part of provincial heath officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s pandemic health safety response initiatives.
“This will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects for West Kelowna for some years to come. It’s always been not a question of it we built it or how we get it done, but when it gets done,” Gipps said.
How to soften the blow for taxpayers serviced by the new treatment plant has been a big factor in city staff preparing this final report for council.
Currently, those impacted residents pay $116 a year for the design, construction and financing of the water treatment plant.
By 2022, that rate needs to be increased to $150, where the rate will remain until the plant is paid off.
To cover that $34 increase two years from now, city staff want to increase the rate in 2021 by $13, and by $21 in 2022.
Staff will also recommend that to pay for that $150 per year cost going forward after 2022, for those who can defer it by placing it as a parcel tax.
“We are mindful of the number of seniors homeowners in our community when it comes to these increases, and there may also be some people who opt to make a one-time payment to cover the increased cost,” Gipps said.
Staff will also recommend seeking long-term borrowing for the city’s share of the project funding, as short-term borrowing can lead to larger water rate increases.
Since the beginning of the year, Gipps noted the city has reached out to the community through ads, reports and infographics outlining the cost payment options for the treatment plant.