Silver Star FireSmart Initiative
It seems that winter is refusing to let go of the grip it has on Silver Star, and there is still a heap of snow around the houses in the community. There is still time to don snowshoes and limb trees around your property, and this in itself will go a long ways towards inhibiting a potential wild fire disaster.
Floyd Gradley has taken on the task of helping to move our community toward a goal of becoming FireSmart, and has submitted the following:
Thank you to all who attended our FireSmart informational meeting on March 21. Since significant interest was shown at that meeting, we have put together an organizational plan for a Silver Star FireSmart program and are ready to proceed with the initiative.
All of you who signed up at the meeting (or have otherwise agreed) to become neighbourhood FireSmart representatives will be contacted soon respecting an organizational meeting to be held in June. We are, however, still actively seeking FireSmart representatives for several neighbourhoods, including:
• the cabin colony (particularly Silver Lode Lane and the south side of Pinnacles Road);
• Silver Star Road;
• the Ridge (particularly Purcell Drive);
• the Knoll (particularly upper Monashee Road including the loop areas).
FireSmart neighbourhood representatives (called FireSmart Champions by FireSmart Canada) will receive training from a FireSmart Canada representative. We anticipate that the training session (approximately 6 or 7 hours) will be held in late June. That training will include how to assess structures and property for risk of ignition from a wildland fire. After training, the FireSmart Champions will assist owners and residents in their respective neighbourhoods by assessing risk to structures and property and by offering risk mitigation suggestions.
All residential properties and structures in the Silver Star community are at great risk from wildland fire, and it is up to each community member to reduce that risk for their own structures and property. Mitigation of risk has proven to be extremely effective in other communities for reducing loss from wildland fires.
If you are able to assist the Silver Star community by becoming a FireSmart Champion, or if you wish to learn more about the role of FireSmart Champion, please contact Floyd Gradley by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Update – BlockWatch Program
When the BlockWatch program was introduced at the AGM in December, there seemed to be interest from the owners, but no one has stepped forward to help get the program off the ground. It could possibly run hand-in-hand with the FireSmart initiative, but requires two people to start the process. There isn’t a ton of work that needs to be done as it just requires getting in touch with the owners who have indicated they are interested and then liaising with the RDNO for signs and door decals. If you are interested, please get in touch with Scott Ross by e-mail at email@example.com
Adopt-A-Highway Community Clean-up
Our amazing Patti Wild is once again looking for volunteers to help with the clean-up of the road up to Silver Star Mountain. The date that has been targeted is Thursday, June 15th. The volunteers will meet in the main parking lot at 9:00 a.m., and it will take about 2 hours to clean the 8.5 km stretch of the road. Safety vests, gloves, litter bags, and pickers are supplied, and it is advised to wear sturdy footwear that may get dirty and muddy. You can contact Patti to volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org . Many hands make light work!
SSPOA Wins Rate Reduction for Natural Gas at Silver Star
The BC Utilities Commission delivers its’ ruling in the Stargas Rate Application
On April 27th the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) published their order for the review of the Stargas application to vary the delivery rate for natural gas to the 287 customers at Silver Star. Stargas filed an application in September, 2016 to the BCUC for:
- Interim and permanent approval of a $0.45 per gigajoule delivery rate decrease for all customers, effective November 1, 2016.
- A Preferred Share Redemption of $100,000 through refinancing of the existing term debt.
The Silver Star Property Owners Association received intervener status and was active in challenging many of the submissions by Stargas to the BCUC.
During the 4 months of the review Stargas revised the reduction it was offering to the ratepayers from the initial $0.45 to $0.30 which the SSPOA contended was far too little of an adjustment. The SSPOA argued against Stargas’ forecast for fiscal 2017 management fees of $78,173, submitting that Stargas has “carved out tasks for its shareholder and their family members” at what SSPOA considers “inflated rates and volumes”. In SSPOA’s view “management fees should reflect the lower of Stargas’ cost to provide any given service, or a fair market rate where it is more reasonable to use third parties to provide a service.”
In its Reasons for Decision the BCUC stated:
“It is the regulator’s function to prevent the abuse of monopoly power, so that customers have access to safe and adequate service at a fair price. At the same time, the utility is to be afforded the opportunity to earn a fair return on its investment so that it can continue to operate and attract the capital required to sustain and/or grow its business.
Thus, the regulator must balance the legitimate interests of both customers and investors (owners) by setting rates which are not unjust or unreasonable.”
And the Panel ruled that:
“The Panel does not approve Stargas’ requested delivery rate of $7.08 per GJ as filed. As modified by the adjustments to the 2017 revenue requirement resulting from the Panel’s determinations on management fee and earned return, the Panel approves a permanent delivery rate decrease of $1.61 per GJ from $7.38 per GJ to $5.77 per GJ ($237,125 / 41,093.6), effective November 1, 2016.”
The result is the Natural gas Delivery Rate will go from $7.38 to $5.77, a substantial difference to the $0.30 that Stargas was seeking. For perspective a house using 100 GJ per year will save $161 per year over what they paid in 2015. Further, ratepayers will see a refund of $1.16 per GJ for the gas they consumed from November 1 2016 till now, the difference between the interim rate reduction of $0.45 and the BCUC award of $1.61. You should see this credit on your next Stargas billing.
In the submission to the BCUC the SSPOA illustrated the $35,387/year that the Creekside Strata paid in 2015 for 2466.2 GJ for the 5 buildings in the Strata complex. This was 1.77 times higher than the rates that Fortis was charging for delivery and commodity combined. The result of the Delivery Rate reduction will see Creekside paying $3,970 less than they did in 2015 and $3,230/year less than what Stargas was requesting. A refund for the period Nov 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017 should be in the neighbourhood of $2,000.
In addition, the commission found:
“The Panel agrees with SSPOA and directs Stargas to refund a total of $6,000 to its current customers within 60 days from the date of this order by means of a one-time bill credit. For additional clarity, this amount has no bearing on the current year’s earned return calculation. Since the dividend on preferred shares was used in past fiscal years as a proxy for Stargas’ return on capital, this overpayment has also been over collected from ratepayers.”
The SSPOA presented arguments regarding the high connection fees charged to the Stargas customers:
“SSPOA submits “Stargas’ policies require a 100 [percent] customer contribution for a new customer meter, at about $1,700, as well as a 10 [percent] mark-up,” and that new customers will only “break even” after 1.5 – 2.5 years of steady use. In SSPOA’s view, these policies “contrast with the common utility practice of ‘rolling’ in some or all of new capital additions into rate base,” noting the customer connection charge for FortisBC Energy Inc. is $25. SSPOA submits a change in Stargas’ policies in this matter will help grow the utility, promote fuel-switching towards natural gas, and spread management costs over more customers.”
The panel were sympathetic to the issue, however it found:
“the current evidence is not sufficiently complete to direct Stargas to reduce the level of customer contribution required to install a new meter to any specific amount.
However, the Panel notes Stargas’ statement that it is not opposed to revising its customer connections policy for new connections and that it will make an application to the Commission. The Panel encourages Stargas to file the proposed application with further process to be initiated at that time.”
The SSPOA recommends that any persons considering a new connection to press Stargas on these potential reductions for their installation!
The SSPOA also objected to the $47,500 that Stargas was claiming as expenses for the application process and the Panel agreed with SSPOA that Stargas had submitted material not directly relevant to the proceeding, and repeatedly changed and corrected its submissions. As a result the claim by Stargas was reduced.
The SSPOA also objected to the proposal by Stargas to substitute debt in place of amortization in the Preferred Share Redemption. This proposal would have a detrimental effect on what the ratepayers will see at the end of amortisation in 2019. The commission quoted:
“… As well, Stargas, from June 1st, 2019 forward will record sharply reduced amortization in its accounts. Accordingly, Stargas expects to file an application to amend its delivery rate together with a refinancing application, to establish rates effective from June 1, 2019.”
As a result of this and the Fortis Service contract which expires, the commission ordered Stargas to submit an application for a revised delivery rate by July 2019. The SSPOA plans to be there.
The Board of the SSPOA would like to thank the members of the Utility Services Committee: Sandy Cook, Cathy Clark, Denys Lawrence, Mike Waberski, Rob Tupper and Graham Moir. Also thanks to all those who supplied data for our presentations and submitted documents. This experience was a demonstration of what a community effort can accomplish.
Our biggest thanks go to Mr. Matt Keen of the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright who assisted us in this process (all within the Participant Assistance/Cost Award (PACA) funding), which was a substantial donation of billable time by Mr. Keen. Truly, very much appreciated.
To read the complete decision and reasons (30 pages) you can go to:
And to see all the documents submitted for the proceedings go to: http://www.bcuc.com/ApplicationView.aspx?ApplicationId=561
Task Force and the Proposed Resort Association
A Note from the SSPOA Board of Directors
To date, the SSPOA has taken a position as follows…“While the SSPOA has adopted a neutral position on the subject of a Resort Association at Silver Star, it remains committed to facilitating community discussion on the proposal.”
Over time the Task Force communications and Open Houses have provided forums to gather input and generate support for the creation of a Resort Association. The SSPOA desires to facilitate discussion to assist property owners in making an informed decision regarding the Resort Association proposal. The SSPOA requests that owners submit factual information either for or against the proposal, and encourages questions. The Board will compile the information and obtain answers to your questions. The information will be released on a non-partisan basis.
Communications should be directed to email@example.com .
All communications will be held in the strictest confidence, and you can elect to withhold your name in any communications that may be published. The Board of the SSPOA reserves the right to use the information in whole or in part as it deems appropriate.