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Mayor’s Column – January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017


Unlike time’s transition from 2016 to 2017, this transition happened so smoothly and so quietly that you had no idea that it had happened, that the old had given way to the new, that the threat of ruinous fines was past. It did and it has and your Mayor and Council, as well as the CAO and the Director of Engineering & Public Works, Paul Gordon, and the Utility Services Coordinator, Al Tricker, were so pleased with the result that we just wanted to stand there and flush the toilet to watch the water run. Of course we had to take the high road and get back to work.

The project had been going on for months with dredging and excavation and compaction and forming and pouring of concrete and laying of pipes and installation of IT. This 5-million dollar project has come to completion and you can open your drains with confidence.

Let me share with you a bit of the history of the new Sewage Treatment Plant. Fascinating stuff, really. It takes us back to the early winter of 2013 when it was discovered that, as a result of aging and inadequate equipment coupled with an especially hard winter, the District was out of compliance with its permit to discharge effluent into the Pine River. (For one thing, the old system had surface mounted aerators that became less effective when deep cold set in thus reducing oxygenation of the effluent.)

The immediate response was to contact Urban Systems (US) for a preliminary assessment of the problem and its solution. The US file was sent to Golder and Associates for detailed engineering work. Concurrently, various funding options were explored along with ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. By late 2013 predesign for the Treatment Plant was underway.

By the spring of 2014 the District had sufficient technical information to authorize the preloading of the site for the plant. Preloading simply means that thousands of tons of earth were stacked on the site of the plant to compress the subsoil sufficiently to support the new concrete treatment pond. Of course, all this earth had to be removed when construction commenced.

Funding such a massive project requires citizen consent to borrow which can be obtained in one of two ways: the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) is simpler and less time consuming and costly. With Government approval, the local government can take the process to the citizens. Within the specified time, if 10% of registered voters do not register their disapproval, the District of Chetwynd (District) is free to borrow the funds for the project. (Failure of the AAP would necessitate a referendum. In this case the AAP succeeded.)

The District also applied for the Canada-BC Grant for approximately three million and received it with thanks to Canada and BC staff who approved the application and, of course, thanks to our MP Bob Zimmer who represented our needs superbly. The Peace River Regional District contributed $500,000 through the good offices of Dan Rose and the remainder of the funding came from our own sources.

The new Sewage Treatment Plant now is a prime example of how projects come together when people and their governments work in cooperation. Had the District been forced into a referendum, the prolonged process may have shut us out of the Canada-BC Grant competition at a loss of the three million. It would not have stopped the plant’s construction but it would have put the financial burden squarely on the residents of Chetwynd.

Over the next decade your succeeding Councils will be considering a number of major capital undertakings that may require borrowing. The first is the East Trunk Main which your present Council has approved for borrowing and is going through the AAP steps as you read this.

Here’s to a 2017 that is known for cooperation at all levels.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor