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Osoyoos CAO Rod Risling Identifies Town Issues

Jul 6, 2023

Rod has been in the role just under one year and within that first year there was an election with a new council. He acknowledged the number one issue in the town is water quality and conservation. During our summer months, the wells reach 100% capacity which provides no backup if there is an issue within the system such as fire or a mechanical breakdown. It also means wells that have higher concentrations of manganese are used, which then requires more chlorine added to the water, which then results in more brown water or build up on the pipes that can break lose resulting in larger brown water issues even during non-peak periods.

The Town has been working hard to deal with the overall water issue. We have recently completed test holes to determine if there is an additional water source. The results of the testing should be completed within a few weeks. Initial results appear to be positive. A water master plan was also completed a couple weeks ago which provides a replacement plan of our aging infrastructure which includes 77 km of pipe. A significant amount of the pipe is past its expected age life of 60 years which is a significant concern. The plan outlines how this urgent past due replacement will occur over the next 20 years. This puts the Town at risk of water main breaks but at this point, the funding is not available to complete immediately. The recently received grant of $9 million will assist in funding the construction of the water treatment plant which will address the manganese issue.

To have a sustainable water system, water rates will likely double or possibly even more.

The next focus is the wastewater plan. The plan is scheduled to be presented to Council on July 25th. Unfortunately, many parts of this system are fairly old as well and it is likely rates will also need to be adjusted significantly to replace portions of it and bring this system up to date as well..

Osoyoos is a resort town with about 5500 residents plus a tourist shadow population of upwards of 20,000, albeit not contributing directly to the tax base. Most Provincial and Federal infrastructure grants are based on 5500 so there is considerable pressure on the tax base to fund infrastructure for the larger seasonal population. Attracting qualified staff also presents a challenge. To add services, one full-time employee results in a 3 to 4% increase to the municipal portion of the property tax bill. This makes it extremely difficult to expand services and in some cases, even maintain status quo.

The Town has assets worth close to half a billion dollars based on replacement value. A current Asset Management plan is integral to grant application qualifications and sound financial practices. Osoyoos is working to develop a plan on all our assets. The only plans developed so far are for potable water and our fleet. Neither of the required funding requirements has been incorporated into the budget as of yet which the administration will be recommending to Council to adopt this year and as other plans are developed, also added to the budget requirements.

Rod views his role as a senior administrator for the Town that is responsible to carry out the policy decisions of the Council as well as ensuring the Council has the best information possible to make decisions on these policies. Rod is invited back later this year for a further question and answer session.