Skip to content

Mayor shuts down annual-report critics

Public comments on water and safety issues in White Rock trigger adjournment of Monday night’s council meeting
Alex Browne photo Resident Scott Kristjanson was among those critical of city water issues at Monday’s council meeting presenting White Rock’s Annual Report for 2016.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin shut down Monday evening’s council meeting after a session of public questions and comments on the city’s 2016 Annual Report became increasingly acrimonious.

Less than two hours in, Baldwin adjourned the meeting after resident Scott Kristjanson – discussing whether the city had sufficient water to fight fires in highrise condo buildings, in light of shortcomings revealed during the May 15, 2016 fire at Five Corners – made reference to the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London, England earlier this month.

That was enough for Baldwin, who had temporarily adjourned the meeting twice earlier as public questions – many of them on water-related issues raised by members of the White Rock Safe Water Alliance – turned caustic.

“Mr. Kristjanson…let’s not go into Grenfell… come on, give me a break,” Baldwin said, adjourning the meeting while Kristjanson complained he was not finished with his comments.

“Mr Kristjanson, you are finished,” Baldwin said, adding the meeting was “done for the night” and that a special meeting would be scheduled to deal with remaining items on the agenda.

City clerk Tracey Arthur later told Peace Arch News a meeting to conclude the agenda would likely be scheduled this week, if sufficient public notice and a quorum of council could be arranged. (After PAN’s editorial press deadline the meeting was confirmed for Wednesday, June 28, at 3 p.m. at council chambers).

A handful of members of the public, most of them council critics who had already spoken once during the meeting, lingered for half an hour afterwards, suspecting the meeting would be resumed after they left, until council chambers were finally locked.

Although Baldwin said questions not answered at the meeting would receive detailed responses from staff subsequently, critics expressed dissatisfaction with answers they had received so far.

They also weren’t satisfied with a detailed summary of White Rock’s case for the purchase of the city’s water utility from Epcor, delivered by Baldwin as a preamble to the annual report, but which failed to stave off rancourous questioning.

“That didn’t really work out,” council critic Garry Wolgemuth said following the meeting.

Kristjanson – who conducts a Facebook page ‘No More Highrises in White Rock’ – had, in his public comments, noted demolition work earlier that day in advance of a new 23-storey PARC seniors development on Johnston Road. He said last year’s fire had proven that the city water system “didn’t have the water capacity to fight a fire in a three-storey condo building…what’s going to happen with a 23-storey building?”

Earlier, Baldwin and city chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill had scoffed at resident Roderick Louis’ claim that the city’s aerial fire truck was not working during the Five Corners fire.

When Louis asked why the failure of the aerial truck – and the reasons for it – had not been included in the annual report, Baldwin said, “I’ve got a picture of it working… it sure looked like it was, it was enveloped in smoke.”

After Bottrill said, “the truck was on site that morning,” Baldwin commented, “this is called an urban myth, I suppose.”

Following the meeting, Louis showed PAN a memo sent from Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis the day of the fire – obtained through an FOI request – in which Garis said White Rock had requested an aerial truck from Surrey “as their aerial was not working.”

Resident Dorothy Bower said much more attention should be paid by the city to improving water quality beyond current Health Canada guidelines, adding that recent studies suggest manganese deposits – held responsible for brown water complaints – poses health risks as well as esthetic issues.

Other questions concerned whether water quality is only being tested at wells instead of at residents taps – engineering manager Greg St. Louis said that all water complaints are investigated at residents homes and that results are shared with Fraser Health

In other questioning, resident Andrew Schultz asked whether the city was satisfied it was fulfilling regional garbage diversion objectives when “more than half” of the garbage and recycling was being collected by private companies contracted to multifamily residences and businesses, following the city’s 2015 decision to collect from single-family residences only.


About the Author: Alex Browne

Read more