By: Korie Marshall

It was intended to be a meet-and-greet, a chance for the community to come out and talk to our local, provincial and federal representatives face to face. But it provided the perfect opportunity for the provincial and federal governments to announce almost half a million dollars in funding for upgrading Valemount’s sewer infrastructure.

On July 2nd, most of Valemount Council, Director for Area H Dannielle Alan, Chief Fred Fortier of the Simpcw First Nation, MLA Shirley Bond and MPs Cathy McLeod and Bob Zimmer met with the public for a BBQ sponsored by the Valemount Community Forest.

“I’m going to miss this place so much,” said McLeod, Member of Parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, while introducing Zimmer. “No one had ever told me about Cranberry Marsh. How come I’ve been here so many years and no one told me what a fantastic walk that was?”

Zimmer is the MP for Prince George-Peace River, which currently includes McBride, but the boundary will be changing for the federal election this October. McLeod says she will be running in her riding, but residents of Valemount will be voting for candidates for the newly renamed Prince George- Peace River-Northern Rockies, and Zimmer will be the Conservative candidate for our new riding, the ninth largest in Canada.

Bond, the MLA for Prince George-Valemount for the last 14 years, says she wants the community to know that all levels of government are part of a team that work to serve us, which was part of the reason they organized the meet-and-greet. But they got last minute notice from the federal treasury board that a local project has been approved, so they decided to announce provincial and federal funding for sewer upgrades for Valemount.

“This may not sound glamorous, but boy, without it, we have big trouble on our hands,” said Bond, who is also Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister responsible for Labour. “Without upgrades we know there would be a major issue with continued problems with the lift stations.”

Valemount will receive up to $235,000 from the federal government’s Small Communities Fund and another $235,000 from the province to replace the 5th Avenue Lift Station. The Village will be responsible for the remaining costs of the project, estimated at $705,000. The work will include the installation of a new lift station with increased capacity and a standby generator, as well as upgrades to the electrical kiosk and various real-time monitoring systems, to help ensure the Village’s wastewater collection system continues to serve the community.

“It’s really all your tax dollars in the first place, it’s never our money,” said Zimmer. “We are investing in priority infrastructure projects that have a positive and lasting impact on the quality of life of British Columbia’s residents while helping create jobs and economic growth.”

“I want to thank our federal and provincial representatives for working hard on our behalf and helping the municipality out with this,” said Mayor Jeannette Townsend. “It is a great relief.”

Anne Yanciw, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village, confirmed on Monday that the funding is specifically for the 5th Avenue station, because it was identified as the most urgent need in a recent report from Urban Systems. It is the oldest station, and pumps a lot of sewage, including a lot of second stage pumping. Several more of the Village’s nine lift stations also require upgrades, including the Dogwood station which caused sewer backups in several homes along 8th and 9th Avenues last fall. However recent upgrades mean the Dogwood station is no longer as urgent now.

The total estimate from Urban Systems in February for required upgrades to seven of the Village’s lift stations is just over $2 million.

“It is great to know that Valemount’s residents will benefit from a new wastewater system that is reliable and safe,” said Bond. “In my view this project fits perfectly with Small Communities Fund criteria, so we have to thank the Village for doing such a good job of their application.”

A total of 55 projects in BC were approved for more than $128 million in joint federal-provincial funding under the Small Communities Fund, including 24 drinking water projects, 22 wastewater projects, four highway projects, two disaster mitigation projects, two brownfield remediation projects and one solid waste management project. The government says more projects are under review and could also soon be approved.