Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

NSSWD fact-finding survey finds little trust in CRD

A new survey suggests there’s no great confidence among current and former Salt Spring Island water officials with the regional district’s handling of formerly independent water authorities. 

The North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) board had commissioned on-island pollsters Return on Insight (ROI) back in October to explore “attitudes” toward the process of converting independent water authorities to a service owned and operated by the Capital Regional District (CRD). ROI was tasked to reach out to current and former water and wastewater commissioners for their thoughts.  

“That was a part of the strategic work that the board wanted to move forward,” said NSSWD CAO Mark Boysen, who shared results at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 29, “starting back when we finished that work in the summer.”  

Board chair Brian Pyper added the report was sought as a means of “accurately and objectively” measuring their experiences, for the information of both the board and ratepayers. 

Among the 27 completed surveys received, the majority — 63 per cent — characterized the experience of being a commissioner as negative, according to the report, mainly due to “frustration at not feeling listened to, respected [by], or spoken with by CRD management.” 

Indeed, specifically asked how NSSWD should approach any potential conversion, eight per cent said to begin “ASAP,” 27 per cent said to proceed with caution, 23 per cent said not to proceed until more information was available and 42 per cent responded, “Do not proceed under any circumstances.” 

“Attitudes toward conversion are predominantly negative,” according to the report, “with half thinking conversion was not beneficial or necessary, and two thirds lamenting not being informed. Two in three commissioners do not think the CRD has the best interests of ratepayers in mind, and a similar proportion disagree that the process was or is smooth and easy.” 

Four out of five, per the report, “do not trust CRD promises” with less than one in 20 trusting the CRD. Although close to half believed conversion did or would provide better access to financing for infrastructure investment, 44 per cent disagreed that an expected impact of conversion would include providing potable water at competitive rates. Nearly all commissioners agreed that local influence over project design, execution and budget decreased once conversion to a CRD service proceeded. 

“The net impact of conversion is perceived negatively,” according to the report, “particularly for communications, affordability, debt levels and competitive rates. The only three aspects that commissioners believe may be positively impacted are water quality, service reliability and financing.” 

Ratepayers will be able to view the survey in its entirety — including anonymized comments from respondents — in the coming days at the district’s website.

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