Newly-elected Cowichan Valley Regional District Area G Director Lynne Smith held a Saltair community meeting on April 2 that packed the Saltair Community Centre gym with about 200 residents.
A slide show showcasing Saltair preceded the meeting – sights the residents see every day and some of the local businesses that make up the Saltair community.
The presentation began with Director Smith going over a map to show the make up of Area G – Saltair/Gulf Islands. Saltair is often thought of as just the strip along Chemainus Road, but it reaches back over the forested hills touching on CVRD Areas H, E, F and I and the Town of Ladysmith.
Area G – Saltair lands contain many of the watersheds that supply water to Saltair, Ladysmith, Diamond, Stz’uminus First Nation (Oyster Bay) and others. Smith also recapped the make-up of the CVRD area’s population, land mass and how the CVRD board table is made up of 15 directors representing the CVRD communities regionally.
She told the audience Saltair is facing many real and potential future tax increases. Many facts and figures were presented to bring the community up to date.
Smith went over the CVRD 2019 Budget that was passed at the March 13 board meeting and the increases to the Area G – Saltair property taxation for the year.
”When people receive their BC Property taxation they will notice there are multiple lines that include other jurisdictions’ taxation amounts and that the CVRD 2019 Budget is only one line making up the total of the BC Property Taxation,” she explained.
Smith went over the Saltair Water System and the future options with regards to the Island Health mandated filtration system and also presented some options for the future of the distribution system upgrades that taxpayers have been funding for the past seven years.
The CVRD applied for a grant for the Saltair Water Filtration system in August of 2018 and the grant awards should be known shortly. A grant would reduce the cost to Saltair taxpayers for a Saltair water stand-alone filtration system.
Smith cited an example of a $3.4 million system with the grant would require approximately a $900,000 loan from the taxpayers. “This year the Stocking Lake Dam has also reached a point where there are financial needs to ensure the future containment of Stocking Lake water,” she added.
Smith was optimistic about the CVRD’s ability to obtain an additional grant for the Stocking Lake dam restoration work.
She pointed out residents have identified their priority as providing the community with safe drinking water to all the homes in Saltair.
On other matters, Saltair taxpayers will most likely need to make changes to their taxation funding to Frank Jameson Centre in Ladysmith, Smith reasoned.
She discussed Saltair’s limited ability to fund community parks and trails maintenance and recreation programs. A loan was placed on the Saltair taxpayers under the Saltair Community Parks Budget in 2014 and has consumed $155,000 over five years, leaving limited funds to maintain and operate the community parks and trails.
Smith noted the Saltair Parks Budget for 2019 included an $18,615 bill for the December 20 wind storm and the clean-up costs are ongoing.
The Saltair Community Centre – formerly Mount Brenton School – has been a rather hot topic in Saltair for some time now, but Smith didn’t shy away from it.
She addressed the costs to Saltair taxpayers (Saltair Recreation Budget) and Area G – Gas Tax funds. Smith indicated $514,498 of these funds have been spent on the purchase loan, updating and repairing the old school building and $20,000 on arrangements with the non-profit Saltair Community Society.
“Based on the CVRD Asset Infrastructure Report, there will continue to be a need for a 10-Year Plan with millions of dollars required,” Smith added.
She itemized the Saltair Recreation Budget to show the new loan payment of $30,000 yearly and the increased building insurance to $5,000 yearly. These expenditures, Smith noted, leave minimal funds to support other recreation activities in Saltair such as the Easter Event, Halloween and new events.
Her observations are Saltair taxpayers have clearly said they don’t want more Saltair tax and grant dollars spent on the building. Smith’s advice to the community is there needs to be options for taxpayers’ liability and funds available.
Throughout the meeting, audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions.
Smith is arranging a CVRD Emergency Preparedness Meeting in Saltair for May 9 and is also working on adding a couple of new fun events in Centennial Park – a High Tea in the Park – on Mother’s Day, May 12, and a Saltair Family Fun Day Aug. 18.