Alex Browne photo At Monday night’s meeting, Coun. Scott Kristjanson suggested calling a halt to the Memorial Park upgrade until a public review had been completed, but White Rock council ultimately approved an additional $741,980 ‘adjustment’ for the project.

Alex Browne photo At Monday night’s meeting, Coun. Scott Kristjanson suggested calling a halt to the Memorial Park upgrade until a public review had been completed, but White Rock council ultimately approved an additional $741,980 ‘adjustment’ for the project.

White Rock ‘caught between two ideologies’

Council approves further spending on Memorial Park, balks at water rate increase

White Rock’s newly elected council found itself wrestling with thorny money problems Monday evening, partly as a result of being – as Coun. Helen Fathers described it – “caught between two ideologies.”

In separate reports from city staff, council received requests to approve an additional $741,980 for the Memorial Park upgrade and to authorize 2019 water rates that would represent an 8.5 per cent increase.

Both involved costs incurred by the previous council – including borrowing for the water system – that came in for criticism from members of council’s Democracy Direct majority, although councillors underlined that they weren’t shooting the messengers, who included city manager Dan Bottrill, engineering director Jim Gordon and financial services director Sandra Kurylo.

Ultimately council approved the Memorial Park funds – partly anticipated, negotiated payments to adjust for delays in the project not caused by contractor Fricia Construction – in a split vote, with Coun. Scott Kristjanson opposed, after Mayor Darryl Walker pointed out it would be unfair to residents and businesses to stall the project further.

Kristjanson had argued for investigating the options of stopping work on the project.

“I’m worried about the cost and whether we’re getting what we want,” Kristjanson said. “I went and talked to hundreds of people, and I could name one person who is happy about this, and five online who are happy about what we’re getting for our money. I personally can’t condone spending another dollar until we have a public review.”

Fathers noted the city had already received legal advice that it is obligated to pay the costs.

“This contract is caught between two ideologies and visions of council,” she said.

Walker cautioned council.

“This is our city, and this is a construction site that is halfway done, and we, frankly, cannot afford, nor can our business people on the front, nor can this community afford, to leave it in this predicament,” Walker said before the vote.

“We may not like what has happened here, and it may be a teaching moment for us as we go forward as a council to make sure we more fully understand what happens when contracts are let…”

Councillors later balked at increasing water rates, which Kristjanson said was “bad optics at a time when many people are still unwilling to drink the water.”

Instead, council unanimously passed a motion from Fathers that staff prepare a report outlining the impact of several options for 2019, including a zero per cent increase, a three per cent increase and a five per cent increase.

Both Fathers and Coun. David Chesney, the only returning council members – who voted in favour of an original resolution for the increase – said they had not heard complaints regarding city water, particularly since discoloration problems as a result of treatment and flushing had been addressed.

“We haven’t done a good enough job on education about the water system,” Fathers acknowledged.

At the request of Coun. Anthony Manning, staff will also provide information on a consumption-based rate structure, favoured by Bottrill as “more fair” than the existing fixed-rate structure inherited from Epcor. In discussion, Manning had argued that rate increases should wait until such a structure could be implemented.

Kurylo described the original schedule of rate increases – 8.5 per cent next year, followed by five per cent increases in 2020 and 2021 – as being necessary to begin paying down and debt servicing extensive borrowing by the city for the purchase of the water utility from Epcor, for the city’s share of the new arsenic and manganese treatment plant (which will come on line at the end of March), as well as costs for upgrades, repairs and maintenance for the system.

“The goal is to make the water utility self sufficient,” she said, adding that the borrowed money – some $24 million in all –would still have to be repaid, no matter what schedule adjustments or deferments to capital improvements are considered.

She said that the 8.5 per cent increase would have worked out to an additional $4 per month for an average single-family home, and $1 for an average condominium.

“I completely understand the rationale (for the increase) but I’d like to see a report rather than an almost 10 per cent increase,” Coun. Christopher Trevelyan said.

On the Memorial Park issue – raised in a broader capital project update – council heard from Gordon, in response to questioning from Coun. Erika Johanson and Trevelyan, that among work contributing to the project’s current $6.7 million budget was providing full pre-servicing to the pier, including water and sewer lines, Hydro line and communications links, partly in anticipation of development of a restaurant at the pier head.

In response to Chesney’s question on whether the project would be as green as the last council had been assured, Gordon said much of the remaining work at the east end, away from the concreted water park area, would include grass.

“It will be a lot greener than it is now,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that that the West Beach parkade, Johnston Road revitalization, the water treatment plant and the Generations Playground are projected to come in under budget, while Memorial Park is projected to be on budget. All of the projects are scheduled to be complete by early spring of 2019.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock City Hall (Peace Arch News photo)
City of White Rock’s new anti-racism policy aims to create ‘inclusive’ environment

‘There is still more for us to do,’ says Mayor Darryl Walker

South Surrey’s Kevin McAlpin is hoping to reunite this 50-year-old wedding ring with its rightful owner. (Contributed photo)
Owner of 50-year-old wedding band found near Peace Arch Park sought

Recovered ring ‘is important to somebody,’ says finder

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council earmarks $1.8M in grants for community groups

Councillor Laurie Guerra says it’s ‘essential’ given damage done by pandemic

Screen shot from the SOS Children’s Village BC webpage for their “Big Hearts Open Doors” fundraising appeal. SOS is also currently running a Christmas gift-card drive to help at-risk youth this Christmas. (Image via
SOS Children’s Village BC launches annual Christmas gift-card drive

SOS collecting gift cards and donations for Surrey’s at-risk youth

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Escapee in Abbotsford has twice been on the lam from authorities

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read