Letter from Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA promises to pursue Woodland Drive water funding

Touting the Woodland Drive $3 million sewer and water project is going to be up to city council.

Touting the Woodland Drive $3 million sewer and water project is going to be up to city council.

“The city has done a lot of work in this area and I believe council has done what it said it would do so far, but the time has come to shake the tree,” Coun. Surinderpal Rathor said at the regular council meeting Tuesday.

A letter to mayor and council from Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says she will continue to pursue funding for the project and, if infrastructure funding becomes available, will support an application.

In their discussion, council asked staff for the project’s status.

“Are we doing something or are we just giving lip service to the community?” Rathor asked, adding most of the people he’s talked to have said they would be interested in having water and sewer in the area, as long as they don’t have to pay a large sum of money.

Chief administrative officer Brian Carruthers told council there are no grants available that meet the project description.

“As council’s aware, we applied to the gas tax program last year and the project did not meet the criteria, and that program’s criteria has not changed. Making MLA Barnett aware of this issue was to take it to the next level. Staff have done all they can to identify potential resources,” Carruthers said.

Rathor agreed, saying it’s council’s job to push the project at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in September.

Coun. Sue Zacharias — after being cautious about the project because it only affects 49 properties — said she’s changed her tune.

“I’m glad staff have been proactive. There’s a lot riding on it. It isn’t just about 49 properties; it’s about future development. The beginning of infrastructure up there would open up another few hundred acres.”

As the economy grows and people move from more populated areas, they look toward areas like Williams Lake where it is a great place to raise a family, she said.

Zacharias is confident staff are ready on a moment’s notice with an application for the project.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. There is an election coming and there have been rumblings of infrastructure grant money becoming available. Who knows?”

Admitting she’s changed her thinking, she said there’s a long-term benefit she didn’t see a few months ago.

“It’s very important and high on our list for lobbying,” she added.

Coun. Geoff Bourdon described it as a political hot potato, saying it will be up to council to take it to government ministers and the premier.

“We won’t be solving it at this table anyways,” Bourdon said. “We have enough background work that if something came up we could move, but I think it’s clear we need to go to UBCM singing its praises,” he said.

Carruthers noted there have been discussions taking place with local governments pushing the federal government for more flexibility when it comes to negotiating access to long-term gas tax funding.

“I was reading through a number of the survey responses and the summaries of the surveys,” Carruthers said. “Consistently municipalities said if the funding is going to be available, let the municipalities determine what the priorities are — don’t go and place priorities on that funding.”

Council voted in favour to receive the letter from Barnett. Mayor Kerry Cook was absent from the discussion, declaring a perceived conflict of interest because she lives on Woodland Drive.