Rocky View water and sewer price tag higher than thought

(Editor’s note): Janet Ballantyne, of the residents’ group Rocky View Forward (RVF) obtained information from Rocky View based on a mandatory disclosure section in the Rocky View County Water and Wastewater Off-Site Levy Bylaw No. C-7273-2013, Section 10.1, included at the behest of the late councillor Al Sacuta. ** Dec. 17 addition: Click rvc-infrastructure-backgrounder and then click on Document icon.

Janet Ballantyne

Janet Ballantyne

By Janet Ballantyne
Rocky View Forward

In the early 2000s, the County spent $135.1 million on water and waste water infrastructure in east Rocky View. 

They believed that if they built it, development would come.  That has not happened.  To make matters worse, the initial levies were set too low to collect a fair share of the costs from early developments.  The County increased levy rates in 2013, but the development needed to pay for the system has still not come.

As a result, the County has carried the costs of this infrastructure for more than a decade.  Most County residents believe that what is still owing is the County’s related long term debt, which was $56 million at September 30, 2016.

However, Rocky View’s Financial Services department has recently confirmed that the $56 million is only part of what is still outstanding.  There is also $15.6 million that needs to be paid back into the County’s Tax Stabilization reserves and $14.7 million owing to specific developers who paid some of the initial costs upfront on an agreement that they would be repaid.  That means that more than $86 million is still outstanding, before including accumulated interest.

“More than $86 million is still outstanding.” Janet Ballantyne

The County has used $1 million of general tax revenues each year since 2013 to accelerate repayment of the infrastructure long-term debt.  The County promises that this will be repaid from future levies.  But the $15.6 million taken out of the Tax Stabilization reserves when the infrastructure was built has still not been repaid.

General tax revenues have also been used each year to subsidize the infrastructure’s operating costs.  This has been needed because there are not enough users for their utility rates to cover the annual operating costs.  This subsidy appears to have been between $1.5 million and $2.3 million each year for the past 11 years.  This is a total subsidy to users of this infrastructure of about $20 million – over and above the carrying costs from the initial $135.1 million spent on the infrastructure.

From Rocky View Forward’s perspective, this suggests that the County has not demonstrated a solid ability to repay the cost of the existing infrastructure.  At past repayment rates, it will be at least another 20 years before it is finally repaid – probably until past 2040.  Current economic conditions do not leave one optimistic that enough new development will appear to pay for the infrastructure at a faster rate.

Given all of this, Rocky View residents who are concerned about fiscal responsibility should be worried that financing options for expanding the water and waste water infrastructure in east Rocky View will be on Council’s agenda in January.  We find it very troubling that Council may be contemplating adding even more to the burden of financing this infrastructure.

For more information, click rvc-infrastructure-backgrounder and then click on the Document icon.

 

 

 

  • I believe he is stumped and this challenge is far above his capabilities.

  • M Robinson

    J. Fearn, skirting the issue of poor financial management in Rockyview is your forte.
    Please, what are your comments about the dollar figures that administration gave to Ms. Ballantyne?

  • J Donahue

    Fearn you obviously went to the same school of obtuseness as Lowther. Can’t stick to the question asked just talk in circles. Ranting about the same crap – nothing to do with the topic at hand.
    Beginning to wonder if you get free mortgage payments from MacDonald Developments every time you bring up the word Watermark. Your inability to discuss any topic without it turning back to your own community makes you appear narrow minded and narcissistic. Your shameless bashing of someone who cannot defend himself is pitiful. Get over yourself and move on!

  • J Fearn

    Bottom line here is that AS did nothing for Bearspaw, He never formed any committees, never engaged to bring his residents together, unless of course that meant hanging out with his like minded people like SW and the like. I was embarrassed every time I read his comments in the paper. And from day 1 he never made a step into Watermark although he represented the people there. Bottom line he is that Eric has done way more for Bearspaw than your AS ever did. I want to bring Bearspaw together, but it is extremist groups with one sided views like your group and your splinter group RF that continue to split the community.

  • J Donahue

    Fearn -Lowther has done more for this community in one year – what has he done? Steering committees – you mean getting other people to do the work for him. I attend his Saturday morning meetings. He gets others to talk so he doesn’t have to. When asked a question he doesn’t answer it – just talks in circles. Typical politician.

    Sacuta did nothing on flooding in Church Ranches. Who’s telling untruths now? Sacuta had the Bearspaw Master Drainage Plan drafted. What document do you think Lowther works from? Church Ranches had a water issue – not surprising – that’s what happens when you build on/around sloughs. Sacuta estimated it would cost 10s of millions to fix Bearspaw’s flooding. When Lowther spends that money he’s a community builder. When Sacuta spent it he was cherry-picking and appeasing zealots. Laughable!

    Back to the issue at hand – thanks Rocky View Forward for bringing this to my attention. While people like Fearn think advising the public about a handi-bus is great way to spend your Saturday morning, I find issues like $30 million of additional debt far more worthwhile and important. Be interesting to see what Council does in January since they’ve done nothing for the past decade.

    Thanks for the rant. I’m off to check out Rocky View Forward and find out what other real stuff is going on out here.

  • Glad to see Mr. Fearn acknowledging the chronic flooding problems in Bearspaw, which also exist in Springbank, Conrich, southeast Rocky View and many other places, being the sequel to reckless development approvals without appropriate stormwater management.
    It is true that the late councillor Al Sacuta (this is the proper spelling of one of the best councillors Rocky View has had, Mr. Fearn) could not solve chronic floods in Bearspaw. You may or may not know that an MPE Engineering master drainage plan for the area was prepared in 2009 but has been delayed because permission from private landowners to convey stormwater through their properties has been slow to come.
    By the way, different numbers–up to $14 million–have been tentatively given on the potential cost of implementing the MPE drainage plan, courtesy of the taxpayer.
    The current Div. 8 Coun. Eric Lowther bumped against the same problems (still no easements) when he brought a motion for emergency pumping last October just before freeze up when he should have known that the required Alberta Environment permits take several months to be available. I recommend you illustrate yourself by reading a recent County News story on this topic.

  • Baa Baa Black Sheep and No Namers – no point in responding to any of you. None of you can get your head wrapped around independent thinking, common sense, bucking the system that is so blatantly corrupt, and standing up to be heard. It’s just not in your genes (jeans).

  • J Fearn

    I hate to talk about people who have passed away bad, but you opened the door and I have to tell you what Mr. Secuta was really like. I lived in Church ranches and we had flooding problems there for years. Al talked about it, but did nothing because it was outside his small group of zealots. He only cared about that group and forget everyone else. He opposed Watermark and used his elected position to fight it which was a extreme conflict of interest. He did not care about Bearspaw his just cared about his own group of people. He did not represent the residents he represented his small group of residents and forgot about the rest. And SW was bound and determined to be exactly like him. We now have a councillor who is trying to bring the community together setting up steering committees and community groups to have everyone in the division working together. He actually truly cares about Bearspaw. Eric has done more for Bearspaw in 1 year than the previous councillor did in his whole term. As for this extremist shoot off residents group. The do not represent the residents they represent the group of people who think like them. If you have moderate views go find another group. So they are an activist group. Nothing more.

  • Well…I understand you feel threatened by a group that would represent the residents’ interests, including yours. That’s sad.
    I see you despise councillors who are firmly planted on the residents’ defense, such as the late Al Sacuta was.
    Asking the local government to consider residents first is a bit “extremist” in your view.
    Wanting councillors representing electors instead of developers appears as an “extremist” proposition.
    Asking that development projects comply with sound planning principles and are not a financial burden on existing taxpayers is too radical in your view.
    Demanding that the local government be fiscally prudent and do not compromise public money in risky private ventures may also be too daring.
    Requesting that the municipal development plan–the County Plan–which was put together after the most comprehensive public input exercise ever conducted by Rocky View is respected may sound heretic to your ears.
    Then, there is no doubt. If it walks like a duck…

  • The No Namers would argue if you said the sky was blue. That is what they do and their credibility is nil, nix, nothing. Our little black sheep, Fearn, is to be pitied along with Norder who has said nothing intelligent so far. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • M Robinson

    We Win, you think “acreage owners (Springbank/Bearspaw) … railroaded the County Plan”?
    No, what they did was try to outnumber the developers who showed up in droves at the County Plan Open Houses in an attempt to try outnumber the residents who actually live in these communities.
    Unfortunately for you, the residents spoke loudly and clearly about what they were willing to live beside. Seems democratic to me.

    On your anti-development note, Harmony now has a footprint going and it will be large. How many Springbank residents opposed it in 2007? Barely any.
    But here’s the thing: Springbank has acreages and it has Harmony – quite a mix I’d say.

    Now, back to the topic of this piece. Can you dispute any of the numbers that Ms Ballantyne has presented? Hard numbers given to her from Rocky View administration?

    And don’t go on about Cross Iron Mall, because it only generates about $4 million a year, barely a dent in the bucket of debt.

    PS: stop name-calling. That only indicates that you have no argument.

  • J Fearn

    Since anti- development sounded just too extreme, they came up with a new buzzword “resident first” . It is just this group of anti- everything’s way of trying to make themselves sound less extreme. Imagine what a mess council would be with a bunch of SW and Al Secuta look alikes on it. Boy would that be a mess. The only reason us few post here is to be a voice of reason to the extremist views on this blog. I am neither pro or anti development and that is the problem with this group they know they are extremist and anti everything that is why they are trying out a new group. If this group is residents first explain why they are limiting their mailing list to only those that are sheep willing to follow the flock. I pose the question I posed to your crew a while back, since you claim you are not anti development name us 4 or 5 developments done in the last 10 years you think have been a great addtion to the county. You skirted the question last time show us you can be slightly impartial. Otherwise you show us exactly what you are……anti development extremists.

  • J Fearn

    Since anti- development sounded just too extreme they came up with a new buzzword “resident first” . It is just this group of anti- everything’s way of trying to make themselves sound less extreme. Imagine what a mess council would be with a bunch of SW and Al Secuta look alikes on it. Boy would that be a mess. The only reason us few post here is to be a voice of reason to the extremist views on this blog. I am neither pro or anti development and that is the problem with this group they know they are extremist and anit everything that is why they are trying out a new group. If this group is residents first explain why they are limiting their mailing list to only those that are sheep willing to follow the flock.

  • rvclookingforanswers

    Mrs. Harper. No land developer ever forced a farmer/rancher to sell their property… It’s the landowner that wants to sell…

  • We Win

    What’s happened to Aleppo, Syria is “cataclysmic”. You Fringers need to get a grip on reality.
    As for forming our own group. Why would we? After all, We Win. Remember?

  • No Name – if you have such a hate on for Rocky View Forward and disagree with a collective voice for RVC, then shut your mouth and take action to form your own damn group.
    Appears you haven’t grown a pair yet.

  • We Win

    Only the fringe would consider organization and infrastructure “cataclysmic”. It’s telling how backward you and your co-organizers of West Rocky View Forward really are.

  • Decidedly, you are desperate for high-density development in rural areas and keep fantasizing about it.
    Acreage owners panicking to sell, people spilling out of the city desperate to live in the west, a provincial government doing planning for municipalities, crowds being exiled to “Bragg Creek City,” etc.
    Relax, We Win. Your cataclysmic vision is just wishful thinking. Not about to happen. You will need to sell your land as it is.

  • Kevin Hoar

    Laura, you’re funny!, our family has been in this area so long that it is possible that the grandparents did arrive by wagon!, and we HAVE been keeping up for a really long time.
    Difference!, the difference between us and you is that tho we have a very large piece of the bearspaw area, we have a lifestyle here, not an investment!, we are not on any ones “side” here, just “keeping up on things”, so stop tryin to lay the crap on!

  • We Win

    Enrique, if you are correct, the popularity and value of acreages will decline. Owners will be desperate to sell. Who will buy? Developers. Smaller lots, more homes, CGY infrastructure, infilling. It’s about time.
    You need some Windex for your crystal ball. For some reason you believe the County Plan is etched on stone tablets. It’s shelf life is now about 7 years (with annual reviews). If you think the province is going to design regional planning around the NIMBY wishes of acreage owners (Springbank/Bearspaw) who railroaded the County Plan, you are sadly mistaken. Development will be seen at all borders of Calgary and RVC.
    There is a demand to live in West RVC. Individuals wishing to live outside the city will have a choice as to where (without ridiculous commutes). The Province will not bow to acreage owners and their efforts to push newcomers to East RVC. Calgary will plan and implement infrastructure.
    If the County Plan must rule forever as you and your organization West Rocky View Forward advocate then most wishing to live in West RVC would be forced to move to Bragg Creek and it’s existing infrastructure. Instead of those newly announced 1/4 ac. lots, maybe your community should plan for even higher density. Welcome to Bragg Creek City.

  • Mrs. Harper

    The reason Developers hate the average owners is in order to acquire any sizeable properties to develop, they have to pay through the nose and negotiate with a hundred real-estate savoy landowners vs one or two agriculture owners they can get away with investing twenty times less the costs. So they make the acreage owner the villain and enemy and keep repeating it over and over.

  • Joe Doolan

    Hey Looking……..your arrogance & condescension lead me to conclude that you are in serious need of an attitude adjustment. I understand there is professional help available to get you through this. Google debt counsellors if you’re in a spot. You really ought to change your handle to “Knowing All the Answers”, rather than just “Looking”, as (at least in your mind) you have arrived. Voodoo Economics is obviously your specialty & simply because I disagree with you on this doesn’t make me your intellectual inferior. You may fancy yourself as the “brightest button in the box”, however I’m sure most others would disagree (perhaps your personal banker is at the top of this list).
    Ratepayers deserve accountability, competency & transparency, not philosophical piffle about how humongous debt is OK as RVC is a going concern that will exist forever & therefore these obligations will eventually take care of themselves. This is critically important when the debt is run up to purchase white elephants as in this case.
    Financial leverage is a useful tool if incurred appropriately. This “Charlie Foxtrot” is the antesethis of this statement.

  • Thanks We Win, you have made yourself abundantly clear.

    “…you’re promoting acreages and rural sprawl” and “Density will save the prairies,” you say.

    Actually, the popularity of acreages has been on the decrease, as shown in Rocky View’s 2012 Land Inventory. showing a building peak in 1996 that has been decreasing ever since. People are increasingly realizing the trade offs of country living, such as long drives to work and also to take the kids to school, extra curricular or socializing activities.

    On the other hand, people are increasingly appreciating well-designed, dense urban spaces with amenities within walking distance that allow for more balanced lifestyles.

    That is why the County Plan has designated areas where country residential is already happening to continue as long as there is a demand for it. After all, acreages demand little from the municipality in terms of services, and pay big bucks in taxes because of the high-value properties. Developers have used the old tale of leeching septic fields and well water use ad nausea but is by no means a generalized occurrence.

    Now, the County Plan has also designated several nodes for urban development in already existing communities. The Calgary Metropolitan Plan foresees providing regional sewer to regional urban nodes on an 8 to 10 units per acre–average–density. The word average means that urban centres can have a centre densely populated with a less dense periphery.

    Developers, however, have rejected the County Plan and its 17 designated growth nodes. Why?

    Because they too realized there is not big demand for acreages. So what they want is to create subdivisions about quarter acre in size that will be more affordable to more customers, while still selling with a “country living” markup price and of course yielding a lot more houses per quarter section. Brilliant!

    That is what you propose: “It is time to start infilling the humongous footprint acreages have created.”

    Problem is, they do not want to develop in the County Plan’s 17 designated nodes. No sir!

    They want to build wherever they can buy land for cheap. That is rural sprawl. That is, for example, Big Hill Springs, a proposed community of 10,000 in the middle of nowhere. So no, they won’t be allowed to trash more farmland and ranchland and keep doing more Harmonies. And you won’t be able to infill acreages unless there is a concerted desire for it in a particular community.

    So let’s go for the cherry: “RVC either gets on board or will be forced to by the Province.” Dead wrong. Regional planning means doing urban where urban concentration exists, and leaving the countryside open, respecting agricultural land because of its natural value and not treating it as a commodity or as land waiting for “higher uses,” as developers like saying. The province in no way is forcing any municipality to do anything. If well done, regional planning will stop municipalities colonized by developers from producing planning aberrations as have been occurring in rural municipalities around urban centres since the 1995 demise of regional planning.

    As it happened in Calgary, developers who for decades placed their people in Council wanted to keep building the same bland subdivisions forever, and got mad when the City began to take charge of its future and began planning a more dense city. Of course, redevelopment is more complicated, but they’ll learn to do it. Same in Rocky View. Once they lose their grip on Council, they will continue to do business–only they will not control the process through their friends in Council–instead will develop where and how they are told.

  • We Win

    Enrique when you write “most residents won’t object to moderate development that does not alter the local character”, once again you’re promoting acreages and rural sprawl. Lifestyles of the rich and (maybe) famous. How sustainable. “Character” does not preserve the prairie. It just makes Fat Cats (Like West Rocky View Forward) feel all warm and fuzzy to have neighbours of the same social standing. Individual families gobbling up 2 acres of virgin land should not a natural occurrence. Leeching septic fields and unchecked, free-wheeling water use (wells) must be stopped. It is time to start infilling the humongous footprint acreages have created. Density will save the prairies before dinosaurs such as yourselves build mushroom mansions from here to eternity. RVC either gets on board or will be forced to by the Province.

  • “This group holds the position that no expenditure justifies anything.”
    Wrong. Rocky View residents have a right to accountability on the part of the municipality where they live and to which they pay taxes.
    Secondly, residents have a right to be informed.
    If both conditions above are met, there probably are many wise, appropriate investments to be made.
    However, a municipality should not compromise its taxpayers’ credit and money in risky ventures for the sake of benefiting private interests.
    Building infrastructure around Calgary’s east side gave developers the possibility of jumping the line and save millions. Meanwhile, no existing residents were given the possibility of hooking up to the water or sewage lines.
    Choosing the “road building” analogy is a sneaky attempt at mudding the waters. Never heard in the last 17 years a single complaint about road building or maintenance–but the lack of it. Some time before borrowing for the Balzac-Langdon sewage pipeline, Rocky View borrowed to purchase two graders, which appeared wise and reasonable and wasn’t objected to. Residents never asked the County to bring lots of neighbours around them. Only those with an economic interest advocate for intensive development. On the other hand, most residents won’t object to moderate development that does not alter the local character.

  • Laura Norder

    Really Joe and Kevin, if your trying to keep up, try running down the facts. This group holds the position that no expenditure justifies anything. Unless you arrived by wagon train, both have benefited from infrastructure and the expenditure of the county to create even the road you drive on. The difference between you and most residents is that you have arrogantly decided that your investment supersedes everybody else.

  • Kevin Hoar

    Wow, now we have rvclfa resorting to name calling while hiding behind a nickname!
    NOT cool whomever you are!, why are you even commenting here?, some of us are here to keep up on things but obviously some are here just to stir things up in true troll fashion.

  • RVClookingforanswers

    Joe Doofus, I’m not even going to try and respond to your comments. Based on your response, it is evident my explanation was so over your head I can’t be bothered to waste my time… At least Ms Ballantyne acknowledged the basic premise I was trying to get across. But thanks for calling me a master…

  • Joe Doolan

    Hey RV looking & Laura. You’re the masters of fuzzy math & logic! You’d likely advocate building bridges to nowhere, as long as they were in RVC. If all’s cool in the RVC Accounting Department, why isn’t the debt being serviced & retired from the cash flow generated from the investment? Continuing to heap up the debt on projects that have no foreseeable, risk adjusted payback is just plainly irresponsible & stupid, not bold & visionary . This is clearly a matter of deceiving all ratepayers & most of Council who likely don’t have a clue about the complete debt situation & aren’t interested enough to ask. Nenshi claims Calgary could have serviced Crossiron for half the cost that RVC incurred if it had been situated a few kilos. south which seems to make sense to many. Not many who frequent this place care that it’s located in RVC & it is definitely not a badge of honour to justify the folly of using ratepayer dollars to subsidize it. Time to clean house in the senior administration offices. Honesty, competency & integrity are obviously lacking which, in turn, makes the majority of Council look equally dodgy.

  • Janet Ballantyne

    I agree with RVClookingforanswers that comparing the operation of a government to the operation of a private household is inappropriate. I stated as much in my earlier response. I only raised the mortgage comparison to respond to We Win’s erroneous criticism. As I pointed out, “the comparison with home mortgages is not really relevant”. I do not appreciate the practice of selecting specific words out of context and running with them to make a point. It somewhat invalidates the point trying to be made.

    Additionally, it appears that nearly everyone in this comments section has missed the main points I was making. Just to recap, these were: (1) government debt, when appropriate (and it frequently is), still needs to be properly disclosed – the County has not done this; and (2) the existing east Rocky View water / waste water infrastructure continues to be subsidized because it is operating so far below capacity that its users’ utility rates cannot cover ongoing operating costs.

    In the face of these realities, the idea that Council may approve financing for expanding the facilities appears to be fiscally irresponsible. That was my main point.

  • RVClookingforanswers

    Janet Ballantyne. the problem in fact is that you look at the running of the county as your would run your own household. While commendable, it is flawed. The county is not a finite entity. It will not retire, and it will not die. As is any government of institution, it is run on the basis that is will continue on in perpetuity, universe willing.

    Take the Calgary Airport as an example. It has run up somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1.5 – $2.0 Billion in debt. Yes BILLION! As an entity that has no expiry date, it can continue to operate, making the payments on that debt, just like any government or arms-length government institution. Coincidently for may who say government should be run like a business, this is also how businesses operate. Without an expiry date. They intend to go on and on and on…

    Its is however a fine balancing act as in the case of governments, their primary revenue source is taxpayers and they are accountable to them. But they should be investing in growth, in assets, etc. That’s their job.

    If you state that all your facts come from the county, then you should have also learned that the county is well within their debt limits to undertake investments like these.

    Everything is not always black and white… Here endith the lesson…

  • Janet Ballantyne

    I wold like to respond to a few of the comments. For starters, there is no financial information in my article that has not been confirmed by or provided by RV Financial Services. I do not make unsubstantiated claims. Attacking people by accusing them of lying reflects on how the accuser themselves must work or they wouldn’t make such assumptions.

    In terms of the debt repayment timeline, I have two responses. First, although the comparison with home mortgages is not really relevant, most home mortgages are paid off in less than 35 – 40 years. There haven’t been any equivalents of home renovations to justify an extension. The accurate parallel is a case where the homeowner’s revenue/income expectations do not meet their required debt commitment. Second, back when the debt was incurred, the County assured residents not to worry about it because it would be repaid very quickly – that hasn’t happened. I don’t like being misled.

    Having said that, my biggest concern is that if people don’t understand the past, they are much more likely to repeat their mistakes. If Council wasn’t about to consider financing options for further expansion of this infrastructure, it would be water under the bridge. In that case, I’d still feel that things had not been handled well in the past, but I would not also be worried about the future.

  • We Win

    The cost was $135m. The debt is $86m. $49m of debt has been paid. This debt timeline is typical of home mortgages across this country. How many acreage owners have paid off their homes within 10 years? How many still hold a mortgage? How many have added to their debt with an extension or remodel? We did. Then we paid off our mortgage. Wasn’t so hard.
    Calgary has offered servicing to RVC based on density of 8-10 homes per acre. When infrastructure arrives in Springbank and Bearspaw will 8-10 homes/acre pay that debt off in 10 years? If not, will West Rocky View Forward advocate higher taxes or higher density? How forward is West Rocky View Forward? Present us with your numbers.

  • How do you know Janet can’t “substantiate”? Why don’t you do some digging and present facts that you think disagree with the figures?? Good luck!
    If you believe this is “forward thinking and planning” and you state (unsubstantiated) there are”millions of dollars in tax revenue”, why isn’t the debt being paid down??
    Your naivety is creeping close to the size of the ever increasing debt of the county.
    Thank you Janet for your enlightening information.

  • Laura Norder

    Janet is looking for some credibility by posting data that she can’t substantiate. This is nothing new for a member of dilutional dozen. One only needs to see that the provide infrastructure and forward thinking and planning of RVC has provided millions of tax dollar revenue when Crossiron was designed and built. Odd that she never seems to have revenue data, only county expenditures that she claims to be 100% accurate. Lady, please. Now if you will excuses me, I’m taking my daughters to the mall.

  • O.K. Fearn, rvclooking, ww, let’s hear your justification for this “governing”.
    And grow a pair and use your real names, very cowardly to hide behind an alias.