Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.
Sooke Council likely to pick sewer partner Monday, August 26, 2002
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, August 21, 2002
The Sooke council is expected Monday to make one of the biggest decisions in the municipality’s short history.
The governing body is slated to discuss during an in-camera meeting, which of three companies will design, build and operate for 20 years a proposed sewage collection and treatment system. A recommendation will come to council from the district staff, which has been working with a pair of consultants, reviewing the proposals from EPCOR Water Services Inc., BCG Services and American Water Services Canada.
To try to fully understand the proposals, members of staff and council were scheduled to meet Tuesday for about two hours each with members of the companies vying to build the system. The meetings were to be conducted in Vancouver.
"We have to make sure when we are drawing comparisons and we are rating the proposals, we are rating apples with apples," said Sooke mayor Ed Macgregor.
No details of the proposals have been released yet.
George Butcher, the chairman of Sooke’s Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes ratepayers’ group (WRATH), said his organization is waiting to examine information about the decision when it becomes available. His group has expressed concern about how the district is pursuing the project.
"The question circulating around the community of ours is why would big companies be so interested in partnering with Sooke?"
The chairman (Butcher) is also concerned about the profit aspect of the venture, which Butcher fears will lead to Sooke being a captive customer while residents face escalating rates. He wonders why council is moving away from operating the system as a community.
Councillor. John Farmer believes the partnership is a suitable venture for Sooke as it is a new municipality with limited staff and a limited tax base. He feels it allows Sooke to access the experience and knowledge of companies focused on sewer systems.
Butcher also feels the idea of having a company from outside Sooke goes against many of the reasons given during the drive for incorporation. He feels a community service could one day be owned by a company that isn’t owned by anyone in the province or country.
Butcher also feels council is pushing to find a partner before the election. He said such components as a liquid waste management plan and an infrastructure grant still do not exist.
After Sooke missed the first couple of rounds of Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grants, the district decided to call for proposals and leave it up to the experts to pare down the costs, according to Macgregor. He also said work on the management plan is continuing.
Once a partner has been selected a fine-tuned infrastructure grant proposal will be resubmitted by Labour Day.