Gas tax money could pay for developing a wetland to further filter discharge from the Okanagan Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant.
A staff recommendation is going to be floated by Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen directors next Thursday that includes an administrative recommendation to use $700,00 from the Area D Community Gas Tax fund.
Currently Area D’s gas tax fund has a balance of $963,205.
Each municipality receives a transfer from the federal government twice a year through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to help aid with infrastructure costs.
“We’ve identified a spot we could take the rest of the money from if the board wants to. We just have to find the money so we can start on the project,” said Bill Newell, CAO of the RDOS.
Although the wetland project has been on the radar of RDOS staff for more than a decade it wasn’t until the Oct. 19 meeting that it started to make waves between area politicians and staff.
A public disagreement between Newell and Area D director Tom Siddon erupted during the meeting resulting in the CAO calling out the veteran politician for allegedly bullying and threatening staff.
The claims came during discussion around a staff recommendation to redirect a Regionally Significant Project grant of $360,000 from the wetland project to the Skaha Estate sewer expansion.
Siddon took exception to not being consulted by staff prior to the release of the agenda for the meeting.
Newell said Thursday staff never planned to abandon the wetland project, but were concerned the project could not move forward by the grant deadline of September 2018. One of the concerns was how the entirety of the $1 million project was going to be funded.
“It’s always something we wanted to do. It’s not something we’re required to do because the plant meets the requirements of the operation certificate but we think it’s a good idea,” Newell said.
In the board’s report, it is also noted that if Area D did not want to pay the entire amount of the project the money could be taken from the gas tax funds of other area municipalities.
Although the wastewater treatment plant is located in Area D, the water is released less than a kilometre from Vaseux Lake. The majority of the lake is in Area D but the south shore is located in Area C.
The vision to create a wetland to filter wastewater from the Okanagan Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant dates back to 2005 when the plant was just being considered.
In 2012, the $360,911 grant was allocated to install a discharge pipe and initial receiving area within the Vaseux wetland area.
“Environment Canada denied the request to connect with the existing wetland and the project stalled as no lands were available,” the report states.
The RDOS bought property in 2015 to construct a wetland, however, because a standalone wetland needs to be built the costs are higher than originally estimated.
As part of the Regionally Significant Project gas tax grant complete funding needs to be secured before the project can begin.
“If we can get the board to commit the rest of the funding and get started right now and hire engineers to design it we could spend the $360,000 from the grant. I’m not sure we could get the whole project done by September 2018 but we could certainly spend the grant,” Newell said.
Calls to Siddon and Terry Schafer, director for Area C, about the recommendation and if they would support using their area’s gas tax funds for the project were not returned by the time this story was published.
The report includes the uncommitted balances of the gas tax fund for each area as of Oct. 25.
Electoral Area A (Osoyoos Rural) $191,489
Electoral Area B (Cawston) $339,757
Electoral Area C (Oliver Rural) $673,679
Electoral Area D (Kaleden/OK Falls) $963,205
Electoral Area E (Naramata) $221,069
Electoral Area F (Okanagan Lake West/West Bench) $490,707
Electoral Area G (Keremeos Rural/Hedley) $408,313
Electoral Area H (Princeton Rural) $357,370