Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.

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Municipality in tough competition for sewer grant

By Mitch Moneo for the Sooke News Mirror August 8, 2001

The District of Sooke would consume almost one quarter of the federal/provincial infrastructure money allocated for Vancouver Island if it were to be granted $24-million for a community sewer system.

What’s more, the municipality’s total grant applications, if successful, would eat up well over a third of the $107-million earmarked for the Island.

“I’d say the District of Sooke is being clearly optimistic,” B.C.’s Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services George Abbott said, noting that Sooke is requesting a total of $36.6-million from the infrastructure program. “Remember the $107 million is expected to carry the program for five years.”

“I’d think a lot of municipalities on Vancouver Island would see $36 million of $107 million to be less than equitable.”

Abbott, the minister responsible for the province’s one-third share of the $800-million program, which also sees contributions from federal and municipal governments, said there have been over 600 applications totaling $2.1 billion in requests. There is only $800 million available for infrastructure projects throughout the province over five years.

“To say that there has been overwhelming interest (in the infrastructure program) would be an understatement,” he said.

Abbott, who stressed the province is just one of three partners overseeing the program (the others being the federal government and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities) said he hoped 14-15 infrastructure projects throughout B.C. would receive grants prior to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities scheduled meeting in September.

He said those projects would be those considered to have both technical merit and a demonstrated pressing need.

“Let’s say, and this is just an example, that a community doesn’t presently have potable water or has water that is less than satisfactory, that would be the type of project included in the first round.”

Abbott said more grant requests could be fulfilled later in the year.

Despite the stiff competition for a limited amount of money, Sooke mayor Ed Macgregor feels Sooke’s proposed sewer project still stands a chance.

“It’s my impression that the 14 or 15 projects that are to be funded in September are practically on-the-shelf ones,’ Macgregor said of projects that have long met the grant criteria and have been awaiting funding. “But I think we could still be funded in the second pass.”

Despite the total cost of the sewer project, Macgregor said the proposal has a lot of merit.

“My understanding is that 75 per cent of the total money is being allocated to green projects, like sewers and water. The other 25 per cent goes to things like road infrastructure and parks.

Macgregor said there is an “evident and obvious need” for a sewer system in Sooke.

“We meet the criteria.”

Macgregor also said that the fact Sooke is a newly-incorporated municipality which hasn’t been a beneficiary of previous infrastructure programs, should work in its favour.

Successful grant applications were expected to be announced this summer. The District had planned to notify in September the 1,530 property owners within the area to be serviced by sewers of the amount of increased taxes they would pay for the service.

That cost has been estimated at $629 per property annually. If more than 50 per cent of the property owners possessing 50 per cent of the total assessed land value don’t object the project will proceed

WRATH Commentary:

There is no scientific evidence to support Mayor Ed's claim that there is an evident and obvious need for a sewer system in Sooke.

Please consider the following: Prospect Lake was closed to swimmers on August 10th due to fecal coliform counts caused by the high bird populations. Similarly, the high fecal counts in a few hot spots in the Sooke Harbour and Basin can also be caused by the resident bird populations, inputs from the hobby farms on Sooke River and DeMamiel Creek and boats dumping their on-board sewage.

Furthermore, the green grants are intended for projects for communities in dire need where there are special health concerns. Sooke has not even undergone the usual Liquid Waste Management Plan, that is normally required by the Ministry.

WRATH cautions the public to be aware of grossly exaggerated claims by the Mayor and Council claiming high fecal coliform counts due to failing septic fields that are not supported by scientific evidence or studies done in the Sooke area.

The false claims by Mayor and council are motivated by their desire to develop, develop, develop, and prosper...some of them personally.



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