NSSWD candidates make their cases

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Four candidates are chasing two spots on the North Salt Spring Waterworks District board in this Saturday’s election. The voting will be held for district ratepayers at the Community Gospel Church from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual general meeting of the district will also be held that day, beginning at 2 p.m. Only ratepayers in the district can vote in the election.

Answers to four questions posed to candidates Garth Hendren, Michael McAllister, Bob Patterson and Sandra Ungerson by the Driftwood are published below.

GARTH HENDREN

Q. What are your qualifications for joining the North Salt Spring Waterworks District board?

A. As a resident for over 30 years on Salt Spring Island and under the jurisdiction of the NSSWD, I have become personally involved in the consumption and management of this limited resource that is delivered by NSSWD. During my time on Salt Spring I have served in various capacities on numerous boards ranging from the library to Community Services and, incidental to these, all of the water districts that operate under the jurisdiction of the CRD.

Note: In the print version of this Q&A, Garth Hendren stated in his answer to this question that he was a founding member of the Salt Spring Water Council. The council’s coordinator, Murray Reiss, advises that is not true and newspaper reports from the time back up his claim. The council was initiated in 2003 by then CRD director Gary Holman, with support from the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee. Hendren served on the council years later when he was the CRD director.

Q. Why do you want to serve on the board?

A. The fundamental concerns I have with respect to water are the limited nature of the resource and the costs. The average ratepayers’ consumption on NSSWD is in excess of 300 litres per household per day. This is approximately twice the national average. Costs to deliver water to consumers continue to rise, for example, the recent commissioning of a new filtration plant on St. Mary Lake.

Note: The 2017 water audit conducted by the North Salt Spring Waterworks District states that the average water consumption on Salt Spring for a single family dwelling was 227 litres per person per day, below the 2015 Canadian average of 235 litres per person per day. The average consumption for single family dwellings (with an assumed 2.1 people per dwelling based on census data) on Salt Spring in 2017 was 473 litres per day, compared to a Canada-wide average of 447 litres per day. 

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district?

A. NSSWD faces a couple of challenges: limited supply of water and limited resources to improve and increase the supply. These challenges are fuelled by an ever-increasing population.

So the question is what to do about it. Should NSSWD further limit consumption?  It already limits it by charging a sliding rate on increasing consumption. It has signalled to the Islands Trust that it will withhold hookups to new housing projects and commercial projects that come before the Islands Trust for approval. Are there other measures that could be taken? Could our local building code be amended to mandate use of water-saving devices on all new and renovated building projects? From my perspective that is my challenge. 

Q. Do you believe that the district should fall under the governance of the Capital Regional District?

A. The problem of limited resources is much more challenging. Across our country in most communities, water is viewed as a utility and is managed for that town or city. So when the time comes for local upgrades and improvement, the local government determines the amount of money needed to upgrade the pipes or build a new processing plant. It then applies to the federal and provisional governments seeking the necessary funds. However, it does not work that way for NSSWD, which cannot receive resources from the provincial or federal governments and therefore the ratepayers must underwrite all the associated costs.   

If I am elected to the position of trustee I see my job as figuring out how to solve this problem so that our tax dollars that flow to both the provincial and federal governments can be returned to underwrite the upgrades and new projects such as a second filtration plant for Maxwell Lake.

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MICHAEL MCALLISTER

Q. What are your qualifications for joining the North Salt Spring Waterworks District board?

A. I have spent the last 31 years, as a lawyer, advising local governments (including improvement districts like the NSSWD) on virtually all matters of importance and relevance to the NSSWD. I also have extensive experience in dealing with government funded social housing projects.

I also believe that, at this stage of NSSWD’s history, having a lawyer with extensive experience in dealing with local governments and the provincial government would be of significant benefit to the NSSWD and its ratepayers.

Finally, as an incumbent trustee at the NSSWD, I believe I have gained the confidence and respect of my fellow trustees and senior staff at the NSSWD.

Q. Why do you want to serve on the board?

A. While I initially had only planned on serving one term as a trustee with the NSSWD, I have been asked by a number of people to reconsider that decision. As noted below, I believe the most important issues facing the NSSWD are infrastructure funding,  governance and strategic island-wide water management. I believe I can be of real assistance to the NSSWD over the next term on all of these issues as well as many other issues.

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district?

A. Without question, the three most significant issues facing the NSSWD are the lack of capital infrastructure funding, governance and the development of an island-wide plan for the management of water resources.

Q. Do you believe that the district should fall under the governance of the Capital Regional District?

A. When I was first elected to the NSSWD board in 2017, I stated very clearly that I firmly believed that decisions about SSI should be made on SSI. I remain of that view for many reasons but most importantly because local decision making provides for greater accountability of the board and of NSSWD staff to our ratepayers.

However, our provincial government has made it clear that infrastructure funding will not be made available to the NSSWD without the NSSWD first considering a change in governance that would see the winding up of the NSSWD and transfer of governance to the CRD. So while I am personally not in favour of such a transfer of governance to the CRD, as a trustee I feel that I am obligated to consider that option at least.

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BOB PATTERSON

Q. What are your qualifications for joining the North Salt Spring Waterworks District board?

A. I meet the requirements of the NSSWD to be a trustee and want to contribute to the wellbeing of the water system.

Q. Why do you want to serve on the board?

A. I would like to see us with a system that provides more water for the existing and future ratepayers and believe a desalination system would be the answer. Having done some research, I think this is feasible. There seems to be little additional water available on our island and we all know there is no shortage around us!

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district?

A. Some of many challenges are the restrictions on usage for current rate payers, restrictions on new hookups, and maintaining reserve levels. These restrictions seem to have forced the water system into a situation where they are restricting any development on the island. Whether we get more development or not should be the responsibility of a different level of government, not defaulting to the water board.

Q. Do you believe that the district should fall under the governance of the Capital Regional District?

A. I am not up to speed on which level of government does what. I have listened to water board people talking about the many groups and departments that are needed to approve things. I have also heard about the lack of funding available to us under our current governance. I would suggest a great deal of streamlining with various levels of government would be a good idea.

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SANDRA UNGERSON

Q. What are your qualifications for joining the North Salt Spring Waterworks District board?

A. I am the current chair of the SSI Conservation and Efficiency Working Group for the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance. We are in the final stages of preparing a detailed report titled Technologies and Methods of Conserving and Improving Efficiency of the Water Resources on Salt Spring Island. Part II of that report is titled Recommendations for Conservation. I see these skills and this knowledge base assisting NSSWD in advancing water conservation and efficiency practices and policies.

I am a multi-disciplinary MSc. in Sustainable Energy Development, focusing on water resources, and provide knowledge and a practical background in implementing water conservation projects on Salt Spring. These are key assets for the NSSWD mandate. I am also vice-president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association Foundation and we advance the mission “to serve as the global resource for rainwater and stormwater harvesting by promoting research, education and thought leadership.”

Through my international speaking engagements on rainwater harvesting for potable purposes, I bring globally recognized best practices to the table, designing and installing water conservation technologies on Salt Spring Island, including rainwater, stormwater and greywater.

Q. Why do you want to serve on the board?

A. I see the NSSWD facing increasing challenges to do more with less. I have been approached for a number of years to run for a board position. The time has come to act on behalf of the people who have urged me to do this. I care passionately about our water resources and want them to be reliable, sustainable, safe resources that aid the people who live on and visit this island.

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the district?

A. As the water demands increase, and the water resources are being increasingly taxed, many on the island face water restrictions and shortages that demand a new look at the issues. I pledge to look outside of the box, at what is being done successfully at scale, globally, to meet the needs of ratepayers locally.

Q. Do you believe that the district should fall under the governance of the Capital Regional District?

A. No. Based on my experience working with ratepayers from Cusheon Lake and Cedar Lane, I fail to see how CRD involvement would provide the resources and expertise needed to make NSSWD a better utility for ratepayers. Having one vote on the Capital Regional Board in Victoria means we simply won’t have the clout to move key water issues up to a priority level needed by Salt Spring Islanders.

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