This is a re-published story from Feb. 9, 2017
Questions about why, with little in the way of real answers, dominated the informational meeting about Bashaw’s changeover to the regional water supply.
The Feb. 9 meeting, held at the Bashaw Community Centre and put on by the Highway 12/21 Regional Water Services Commission, attracted about 60 people. The meeting was to focus on the construction of the water line along Highway 21 between Bashaw and Mirror, which is slated to begin this summer and be complete by early fall.
However, most residents at the meeting only wanted to hear why this is being forced on them.
CAO Theresa Fuller explained it would cost the town about half a million dollars, in either a lump sum or over a 10 year span, to get out of its membership in the commission. However, the town would also be obligated to remain a member for the next two years plus pay all the required fees during that time in addition to the payout.
“When news of the water line first came to council, they asked how can we get out of this. I also thought it was crazy, considering the perfectly good wells we have,” stated Fuller to the crowd.
“(If the town did leave), we would technically then be on our own for the cost of operating, maintaining, upgrading and repairing the treatment and distribution system. That would mean we run the risk of having to use our MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding for that, instead of for the best benefit of our residents.”
As well, Fuller added just because the town decided to opt out, it would still be up to the Alberta Environment and Parks minister to approve the request and that isn’t likely as the province has been pushing hard for communities to be on regional water systems.
Many residents also expressed worry about the sticker shock of the hike from 90 cents per cubic metre to $2.69, while some wondered what more they can do to conserve water as many of those in attendance are on fixed incomes and face a minimum monthly jump of $25.
Fuller stated the choice to stay and become a water user instead of selling water will save the town some money by not operating its own treatment system, but on the flip side, the town will also soon lose the revenue from selling water — a hit of about $65,000.
When quizzed about why Bashaw joined in the first place, the answer came in two parts.
First, Fuller said the town didn’t want to get caught like Alix, that saw its wells run dry in 2005, and so Bashaw joined forces with Alix, Clive and Lacombe County to form the commission.
Secondly, Win Tan, drinking water operations specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks, stated the province has been strongly encouraging municipalities to join regional water systems in order to ensure supplies of safe and reliable water, especially considering the recommendations to come out of the Walkerton (Ont.) e-coli incident in 2000.
The water being supplied comes from Stettler’s water treatment plant and first shipped water to Alix in 2006. That was followed by a line constructed in 2007 from Alix to Mirror and one that sent Bashaw’s well water to Ferintosh. That line was then extended north between 2011 and 2013 to serve New Norway and Duhamel.
Once the Mirror to Bashaw connection is complete, all of those communities will be getting water from the Stettler plant. The commission also hopes to build the new line from Ferintosh to Edberg this summer depending on funding. Tees and Clive are slated to come onto the system when the line from Alix is extended along Highway 12 in 2019.