White Rock council fields questions, criticisms on 2017 Annual Report

Water utility among concerns critics raised

White Rock council endorsed its 2017 Annual Report Monday evening and sat through nearly 30-minutes of criticism and questions from city critics.

Residents Garry Wolgemuth and Roderick Louis each went to the microphone twice during the question period. Resident Michael Stevens also addressed the report.

During Wolgemuth’s speaking time, he noted arsenic and manganese is still present in city water, and “at times” the arsenic and manganese levels exceed the maximum allowable concentration (MAC).

After question period, Mayor Baldwin addressed the water concerns, noting that a statement was made that arsenic “frequently” exceeds MAC.

Baldwin referred the question to city chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill, who said he’s not aware of arsenic exceeding MAC in 2017.

“Despite the statement that it happens frequently, there was none?” Baldwin asked Bottrill.

“Correct,” Bottrill responded.

According to the city’s website, arsenic levels exceeded the guideline limit of 0.01 mg/L two times in 2017. And, according to the metal results, manganese levels exceeded the MAC guideline limit 31 times.

Baldwin forwarded another question to city staff that referenced a comment made by Wolgemuth, who said that a $600,000 reimbursement the city received from Epcor after the city purchased the water utility was a “gift.”

Baldwin asked Bottrill if the reimbursement was a gift.

“I wouldn’t refer to it as a gift,” Bottrill responded. “But it was a realization that the final purchase price for the water utility was $13.4 million, not the $14 million advance payment.”

Baldwin also asked Bottrill if the city’s water rates are lower than Epcor’s rates.

Bottrill said they were lower.

Prior to question period beginning, city clerk Tracey Arthur explained that questions must be directed to the mayor, who would determine if the question would be forwarded to staff for a response. If staff were unable to answer the question, Arthur said, it would be noted and both the inquiry and answer would be posted on the city’s website following the meeting.

During question period, Louis – who at one point was told by the mayor to “tame your language” – criticized the city for not rewriting the city’s economic development strategic plan. He said the document needs to be re-done and evaluated every five years, and the most recent document was completed in 2009.

“Why was this report not written in 2014, when it should have been? Or 15, or 16, or 17, or 18. I’ve been now in front of you, three years now asking the same question, and like infants you don’t answer and don’t provide replies,” Louis said.

Louis also took issue, among other items, with the city’s initiative of building “welcome to White Rock signs” instead of building directional signage and maps, which he suggested should be installed at central locations.

“Rather than building way-finding signage, you spend millions of dollars on welcome to White Rock signs,” Louis said. “This is a functional city, no. I say it’s dysfunctional or it’s seven babies in diapers who don’t want to do it because someone other than you thought of the idea.”

During Wolgemuth’s time at the mic, he made mention of Memorial Park, an upgrade project that was noted in the mayor’s message in the 2017 Annual Report.

Wolgemuth said the $4.5 million budget for Memorial Park and washrooms is now $6.5 million, and criticized the city for using community amenity contributions (CACs) on the project as the land is being leased from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF).

He also drew councils attention the number of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act complaints and requests for review, something he said was a “sore point” for some councillors.

Other issues raised included water pressure, fire and police protection services, official community plan, affordable housing, public transit and walkability.

After forwarding three questions to staff, Baldwin said “the other questions you can get the answers back through the normal system, and that will take care of that.”

White Rock 2017 Annual Report by PAN editor on Scribd

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