Letters: On homelessness, South Slocan water rates and the environment

From readers Deb McIntosh, Robert Macrae and Chris Campagnaro

A conversation on homelessness

I would like to open the conversation up on homelessness in our area. We have people who need help and understanding. In fact, many are people who have grown up here who have just hit a rough patch. Some have never had a run-in with the law and others are simply poor, which is not a crime.

Yes, some have addictions and if they are given housing and useful supports, this too could be addressed and, again, addiction in and of itself is not criminal. I know some of these people and consider them friends. Many people are only a few paycheques away from being in a heap of trouble and we should all know that addictions and mental health issues do not discriminate.

We live in a province of significant wealth; homelessness shouldn’t be an issue.

Trying to deal with mental health while living on the street is next to impossible, and who can deal with addictions when sleeping outside? Jobs are virtually impossible when homeless. We also have those who are hard to house — and that in itself is a conversation worth having.

The province is clearly not going to confront this issue in every community and Castlegar city council has said it’s not their mandate to deal with it, so that leaves us, you know, “we the people.”

Yes, we can make a difference.

We need to have a serious discussion about what kind of community we want. Homelessness and poverty are not going away and Castlegar has only ever seen it on a very small scale. We at the Community Harvest Food Bank, drop-in centre and emergency shelter have been dealing with these issues for years.

We house people temporarily while trying to help secure housing for them, we have paid rents, rented motel units and our shelter is never vacant. We connect folks with mental health and other services, we do everything we can do to ease the pain, loneliness and fear many have. We understand connections to the community are vital for their well being.

We need to emphasize the importance of advocating for low cost, affordable housing to our elected officials. We need to make sure that people are safe, housed and given the opportunity to be their best selves. We need to make sure our seniors and young parents have access to housing, a place for their families to grow and for those single people who, by all accounts, get left with little to no options. We all deserve a community that is inclusive, affordable and safe. We should accept nothing less.

If you are interested in having a conversation on homelessness and housing and other social issues, please feel free to contact me and if there is enough interest, we can have a larger meeting.

Deb McIntosh

Castlegar

Feldheim’s example

How much will climate action cost? In Feldheim, Germany all energy is renewable. Feldheim has 47 wind turbines on the village’s co-operatively owned fields surrounded by crops and livestock. Farmers earn from their crops, livestock, and energy sales. Feldheim built a biogas plant that uses crop residue and animal manure to generate methane for district heating. Their bioenergy plant runs on wood waste from the community forest. Feldheim sells its surplus electricity. A 10 MW battery ensures sales when prices are highest.

Villagers installed their own grid and added a district heating system. Villagers on district energy don’t need a furnace. Villagers pay half the national price for electricity. Their energy investments yield six per cent per annum. Feldheim is a small, conservative, farming community that recognized the benefits of renewable energy. Will BC take control of its renewable energy resources and reap the economic and environmental benefits of climate action?

Robert Macrae

Environmental technology instructor

Castlegar

Rate increases hurt water users

The South Slocan water system is one of a number of small water systems owned and operated by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

A new water treatment plant was installed in South Slocan in July 2010. A great deal of grant money was raised for this project, as much as $900,000, all or most of it allocated to the new treatment plant and nothing invested in upgrading the ageing 1950s vintage distribution system.

We moved to this community after the upgrades were completed in 2012 and became one of just 51 users on this water system. We just got our 2019 water bill. After several substantial annual increases in the past few years (15 to 40 per cent), it’s just been raised yet again by an additional 28 per cent to $1,642 per year.

The bad news continued. A letter with the bill warned our rates will grow to a staggering $3,100 per year to cover replacement of the distribution system. To put this into perspective, our first bill in 2012 was $471 per year. RDCK plans to increase our rate 6.5 times from our original cost to $3,100 per year or $258 per month.

Someone planned poorly (or failed to plan at all) this expensive state-of-the-art treatment plant upgrade for South Slocan with only 51 paying users and an ageing distribution system. This treatment plant is very expensive to maintain under RDCK operation. Was the right treatment plant chosen in the first place for the number of users on the system?

The same plant serves communities with more than twice as many connections. Could less money have been spent on the plant, and some invested in upgrading the distribution system? They have chained us to a financially unsustainable water system.

Now 51 system users are paying dearly out of their own pockets for mistakes made by the local government, for lack of planning foresight during the upgrade. We are simple working-class folks out here, some seniors, some young families raising children, all of us on fixed budgets. This is really hurting us.

It’s pricing us out of living here and drastically affecting our property resale value, which for most of us is a significant part of our retirement planning.

Chris Campagnaro

South Slocan

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