For some, summer is a season to lay back and relax. Schools are closed until September and tourists populate resorts and other amenities to recharge and prepare for a busy winter. However, mindful of the moral lesson in the Aesop’s fable ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’, the District of Lake Country has been very busy working on assuring that its long term vision of a community known for the best quality of living in the Okanagan and in BC continues to produce the results we are striving for and that are beginning to materialize.
As it goes, Aesop’s fable tells the story of a merry grasshopper that spends the summertime singing and seizing the day without any particular care for what tomorrow is going to be while the ants are hard at work gathering supplies for the winter. The grasshopper mocks the ants and invites them not to waste time in hard work but to enjoy themselves, but the ants continue their work knowing that the winter will come soon and with it very little food. When the winter comes, the grasshopper has no food and, starving almost to death, he goes to the ants and asks for a bit of food. The ants have enough for them to last through the winter and so they have no choice but to refuse to assist the grasshopper that dies of starvation soon after.
In the past, when the complexities of local governments were less pressing than today, some municipalities had a grasshopper approach to services and infrastructure. No need to set aside money for road repairs or replacement: when the time comes we’ll find the money and the work will be done. Progressively, though, federal and provincial funding has become scarce and sparse and municipalities are left to fend the dilemma of how infrastructure and level of services can be proactively addressed for future betterment. It is not an easy answer. We can either let infrastructure gradually degrade and adapt to this, or we need to set aside sufficient funds to be prepared for when the need will come up.
In this spirit, the first phase of our asset management plan, which deals with our water infrastructure, is going through a number of proactive action steps that will ensure that Lake Country is prepared when the time comes. First, the District has prepared a Water Master Plan that has been prepared with the assistance of Council, staff, community members, the Water Advisory Committee, and consultants. It took a bit more than 2 years to draft the plan, finalize a number of options and, for Council, to choose the option we need to pursue. Since then (November 2010), we have been working on addressing the prioritization and long term funding of the projects that need to be done to keep our infrastructure functional and insure that when our residents turn the taps on they get water that is clean in a sustainable and affordable way.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that over 80% of the people that responded to our survey have told us they are pleased with the District taking the initiative to do this and pursue it full head on, and that they are not concerned with the cost increase of $114 per year. The actual cost to the taxpayer will be $1.33 per day: pretty good for a reliable, affordable and clean use of water. If you buy a bottle of commercial brand water, that would be cost of only one half a litre bottle. Not only that, but our residents investment of $1.33 per day will buy a $79 million in projects over the next 20 years. Only a few municipalities in BC can say they have accomplished as much.
Having a plan will also be useful to present a concrete approach to provincial and federal funding as we can show we are more prepared than others and we are making the effort to contribute. Only the City of Cranbrook and the City of Grand Forks are adopting similar strategies and those municipalities are working with Lake Country to show our provincial government our level of preparedness and foresight.
It is true life. The Okanagan way.