Tensions ran high Monday night when a number of Harrison residents brought questions to council about the Village’s large-scale water project.
Municipal water lines are currently being installed down a number of residential streets –connecting 100 Harrison homes to Village water. But at least four residents addressed council to express frustration with compulsory connection and user fees that they feel are forcing them to participate in a system they don’t want.
Harrison Mayor Leo Facio asked residents why they hadn’t come forward sooner.
“[During] the process from 2012 to 2018 there was ample time there, all those years…” he said. “There have been newsletters, Observer postings and also meetings in all those years to discuss this water system.”
Facio emphasized that the upgrade was not a choice, but was mandated by Fraser Health. The compulsory fees were small, compared to what they may have been if the Village hadn’t secured provincial and federal funding for the project.
Chief administrative officer Madeline McDonald explained the fees to the heated room.
“What we’re providing is a service, and the fees that are associated with our service represent the cost of the capital and operating costs to fund that service, including the treatment plant, the licence to withdraw the water from the lake, the energy, the public works, the emergency systems, the testing – all those good things that go into a safe, public drinking water system,” she said.
The public also asked council for clarification on their wells. Do they have to decommission? Would the Village show up on their properties to shut down wells?
The Village reiterated that, at this time, they have no intention of coming onto private property to decommission wells – but do reserve the right to do so.
“Municipalities typically do have those rights under legislation reiterated in bylaws which we have done in this case to be very clear,” McDonald said.
“If there was, say, an order from Fraser Health or an urgent public health issue or a tax sale issue or a property issue, we reserve the right to go in and undertake works if it is necessary to meet the public good and public health.
“Anything could change,” she added. “Council’s political position on this could change and require universal connection.”
Ultimately, at this time, Harrison property owners using well water for domestic use will not be forcibly disconnected, but connection and usage fees will be charged to every resident who fronts the new water lines.
B.C. Transit shelters coming to Harrison
Community services manager Chelsea Woolhouse made a proposal to apply for BC Transit’s cost-sharing bus shelter program – which covers 46.7 per cent of the expenses associated with bus shelter installation.
Bus shelter installations were proposed for three locations: the Spring Park entrance on Lillooet Avenue, the Community Garden bus stop and northwest corner of the municipal overflow parking lot at Miami River Drive and Hot Springs Road.
“Having access to a reliable transit system is truly a luxury,” said Coun. Samantha Piper when voicing her support for the project. “It provides an important component in a community’s livability, it provides obvious environmental benefits and is one of the safest modes of travel.”
The bus shelters may change the perception of riding the bus and increase ridership, Coun. Piper added.
The BC Transit “E2” shelters support low to medium levels of daily passenger boardings – no more than 40 to 50 per week. Each shelter has a cantilevered roof system and a two-person wooden bench.
Changes to election format
Village of Harrison staff will begin preparing applicable bylaws and documents for the next municipal election scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018.
Deputy chief administrative Officer Debra Key made a recommendation that the municipality move to voting day registration to obtain the most recent elector information.
The Village also plans to use automated voting machines for upcoming elections.
“These machines reduce the requirement for staffing and eliminate the possibility for error in the voting opportunity process,” reads Key’s report to council.
“The machines are secure and are proven to provide practical and simple instructions to the elector.”
Council debated the pros and cons of the “mail ballot voting opportunity,” available to electors with physical disability, illness or injury that prevents them from voting or who will be absent from the Village for advance and general voting.
“It was found that many applicants were misusing mail ballot voting and using the process as an additional voting day,” reads the report.
“With elections now being held in October, it may not be necessary for mail ballot voting as an alternative opportunity.”
Council defeated the movement to prepare a new election bylaw so it could consider options for mail-in ballots.