Union Bay residents will have the chance to take a closer look at the question of how they will be governed this month. Next month, they’ll be asked to decide.
The Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) has been working in conjunction with the Comox Valley Regional District and consultants from Urban Systems to address questions of how the community should be run in the future.
At present, the area falls within Area A of the CVRD, but it has its own board and staff to oversee water service, fire protection and streetlighting, in effect, operating as a quasi-local government. The question for residents will be to decide whether to keep the current system or move the three services into administration by the regional district.
So far, there have been meetings that have resulted in a draft governance report, released in September.
“There was some outreach to broad stakeholders,” Area A director Daniel Arbour of the CVRD told the Record.
While the COVID-19 pandemic affected the discussion process somewhat, he added, it has not caused many delays to the process.
“We didn’t lose that much time because a lot of the work was able to be done remote,” he said.
The document outlines key issues, such as governance, the services themselves, stakeholder engagement and comparisons between the two options.
“Our main concern was to look at … the cost difference between being in the district and UBID. Overall, it was fairly comparable,” Arbour said. “I think residents will be able to compare apples to apples.”
Key findings include an estimate that a move toward folding services within the regional district would be cost-neutral, with potentially a small savings from labour costs; that the UBID board would be dissolved with political representation falling under Area A of the CVRD; the community could have greater access to a larger pool of expertise, government grants and financing through B.C.’s Municipal Finance Authority; and it could potential cost increases for water-main replacement because of the CVRD’s higher level of service for water-main repair.
Under either option, as the report indicates, there are expected to be additional operating costs for water because of the community’s new $4.2 million water treatment plant. The capital costs have been funded and financed by ratepayers because the UBID board is not in the position to access senior government grant funding.
In the days ahead, there will be information sessions for Union Bay residents to find out more about the draft report.
“We’re going to collaborate between the CVRD, UBID and the consultant,” Arbour said. “We’ll all be involved in the upcoming open houses.”
There are virtual sessions for Thursday, Oct. 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., followed by in-person sessions on Tuesday, Oct. 20, for which reservations will be required. They will be 30 minutes between 4 and 7 p.m., with a maximum of 20 people allowed at each session.
Next month, residents will make a choice on how the community should be governed. There are advance polls scheduled for Nov. 10 and 17, with the general vote to follow on Nov. 28.
“They’ll have a good month with the report to consider the options and make some decisions,” Arbour said.
The draft report is available through the CVRD website. There is more information about the upcoming sessions on the UBID website at union-bay-ca.