Expert speaks to Vic Beach water troubles

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July 5, 2018

RM of Victoria Beach Council Meeting: June 19, 2018 at the East Beach Senior Scene

By M. Haddad

The full complement of Councillors was on hand for the first of 4 scheduled evening council meetings to be held at the lake, in keeping with a tradition started with the current council for a better opportunity to serve the constituents.

The focus for the evening was directed to a new Contractor, Tim Maunder, of Janus Municipal Solutions, who was previously an instructor at Red River Community College, a Level 4 Water Plant Operator who has over 30 years of Water experience is a Level 4 Water Plant Engineer who brought a new level of expertise and experience. For the 50 plus in attendance, Tim, of Janus Municipal Solutions, explained what happened this year to the decaying and patchwork system, and how the system was failing on multiple levels due to deterioration, age and out-of-date maintenance. With this presentation, many of the questions that might have been raised were answered. This set the tone for the remainder of the meeting.

Although recent staff concerns were on the minds of those in attendance, there was little question that the RM has not been following many Government regulations and guidelines that have been put in place over the past several decades. Workplace Safety and Health, and other regulatory bodies require the RM to be registered, and to obtain permits to excavate, which could not be located. As distressing as it was to hear, the property owners in the room left with a sense that we will be in compliance as quickly as possible. A full report on the condition and challenges facing the RM for its two Water Treatment Plans and distribution systems, will be placed on the RM website.

Resistance to change is a human trait, but with the daunting threat of huge fines, and legal engagement, change of how the Water Treatment Plant and distribution system is maintained will be set right. And it comes with a cost. A list of these costs was presented by Council in the Public Works report, with no further discussion. Councillor McKibbin was very clear that the protection of the health and well-being of citizens in this municipality to have safe potable drinking water is critical and will be provided.

Other large expenditures were brought to light, starting with extensive legal fees, when Councillor Buchanan brought forward a Resolution to require Council to have the use of lawyers approved on an issue by issue basis. This Resolution was tabled, to allow for a determination of the impact on current on-going issues. To make his case, Councillor Buchanan presented a list of fees that have taken this budget line well beyond its limit set for the year, with 7 months to go. Andrew Glassco, CAO, offered some insight into the unusually high use of legal assistance, citing the negotiations for the first Union contract with Local 987 of the Operating Engineers, a Human Rights challenge, and the usual land transfers, personnel issues and other RM business.

The rest of the agenda was followed with little discussion, with one exception. A letter listing many grievances was sent to Council, which was apparently spread throughout the community via email. Reeve Hodgson said that it required a response and rebuttal explanation and this should be put on the RM website for all to see.

A motion to do this sparked some debate. The question of why a response to a piece of correspondence should end up on the website, when it was not known how many or how constituents would be aware of it in the first place. There should be an expectation that correspondence between Council and persons raising their issues should all be treated only between the two parties involved. This interaction left many in the room bewildered, as Councillor Mckibbin proceeded to defend Council’s actions to a few assertions that were made, without context. The question was called on the Resolution, and a Recorded Vote was requested. Councillors McMorris and Buchanan voted against the response being published, declaring further they did not want their names to appear as being in support of the contents.

The motion was carried. The original email and the response are now available on the RM of Victoria Beach Website under “Local Notices” with the title, Res 2018/135 – Moreau Email and Council Response.

With the reminder that Question Period needs to be restricted to questions only, the line-up was short, and the questions brief.