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Vying for sewage

By Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror August 14, 2002

The battle for who gets Sooke’s sewage is getting more intense.

Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt, administrator Tom Day and a pair of consultants are poring over the trio of proposals from companies who are vying to design, build and operate a collection and sewage treatment plant and operate the facility in partnership with Sooke for 20 years.

Day said Monday night district representatives will interview each of the proponents on Aug. 20 to clarify some questions about the proposals. The Sooke administrator expects a recommendation will come before council at an Aug. 26 meeting. The district plans to resubmit a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant application by Labour Day weekend. A meeting between Mayor Ed Macgregor and other district representatives and George Abbott, the Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services, is set for September.

While EPCOR Water Services Inc., BCG Services and American Water Services Canada have all submitted proposals, the details of them – including the cost – are currently not available to the public because of a concern for the details of the companies’ privacy. Day said the Aug. 26 meeting to discuss the proposals will be held in-camera.

However, in regards to cost, the administrator has said the companies have been told proposals at $15 million and less will likely be funded through the grant the district is optimistic it will receive. Councillors and district representatives have visited facilities operated by all three companies.

Last week the News Mirror spoke to representatives of two of the three companies vying for the system. Both Brett Hodson, BCG Services president, and Karim Kassam, general manager of EPCOR Water Services B.C., declined to speak of specifics of their proposals, but both said they believe in the project and feel their companies can do a great job for Sooke. Phone calls to American Water Services Canada were not returned.

BCG Services feels sewer, gas can come together, CRD to vote on issue today

Hodson feels there is the potential for Sooke and his company, a wholly owned subsidiary of B.C. Gas Inc., to have a strong partnership. He said his mandate is to pursue multi-utility opportunities in water, wastewater, electricity and gas systems.

Though Hodson was careful in not making any promises, he said, if selected, his company would work hard with the district to facilitate the installation of a gas pipeline at the same time as a sewer collection system.

"It you are putting a system in, you can dig up the streets once instead of doing it twice," he said.

The district and the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce had supported gas coming to town, but a deal with Centra Gas, owned by B.C. Gas, was nixed by the Sooke school board, a key client in extending the line to Sooke, because of concerns for affecting the Galloping Goose trail.

"I think there is a real opportunity to get both wastewater and gas services," Hodson said.

However, the issue might be a moot point by the time Sooke selects a partner. At a Capital Regional District directors meeting today, the topic is expected to be discussed and it appears, according to CRD parks representatives, the issue with the school district has now been cleared up and now the burden is on the CRD directors to approve a right of way.

But Hodson sees Sooke and his company being partners in several ways. The president said BCG Services has experience in dealing with infrastructure grants and feels it might be able to help facilitate one for Sooke.

But once the project is built, Hodson said his company won’t disappear. Bound by contract to operate the treatment plant for 20 years, Hodson said BCG Services will continue to try to serve the community. In fact he feels one of his company’s greatest strengths is its reputation through its years of service as B.C. Gas to communicate with the public.

"An extremely important part of the process is working with the community," Hodson said.

He said if BCG Services is chosen it will have a number of financing packages available for homeowners as well as providing education.

Another opportunity for the company to help Sooke, Hodson feels, is its experience in, and technology it possesses, for emergency preparedness.

He also feels his Canadian company’s experience and reputation in the province are also assets.

EPCOR feels it can help solve problems

Kassam said his company, like EPCOR, also is involved in multi-utility operations, including water, power and gas utilities.

He said the company partnered with Port Hardy about three years ago to manage its water treatment plant as well as wastewater treatment. Kassam feels experience at this Island community, as well as others in B.C. and Alberta would help it service Sooke and help it handle some of the district’s septic system problems. EPCOR Water Services has operations in such places as Red Deer and Strathmore.

"I think we have a pretty good track record as a company," Kassam said.

He also said being Canadian-owned and Canadian-operated EPCOR Water Services B.C. has a vested interest in projects such as Sooke’s. He also noted all of the company’s potential partners for the project are based in Victoria.

WRATH Commentary:

Isn’t anyone going to talk about a Liquid Waste Management Plan?

Why all the secrecy about the details of the projects? It’s only our tax dollars they’re spending!



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