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

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EPCOR Selected as Partner for Sewer

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, September 4, 2002

The District of Sooke has chosen EPCOR Water Service Inc. as the company it hopes to partner with for a proposed community sewer system.

Council tabbed the company, which has a BC operation based in Richmond, during a three hour long Friday morning in-camera meeting. Mayor Ed Macgregor said council unanimously agreed with the recommendation of EPCOR made by staff. Negotiations on a formal agreement between EPCOR and Sooke will begin immediately.

"I think we were comfortable with the recommendation," Macgregor said. "Council just wanted to make sure they understood the nature of the bids and the differences between them."

The mayor said the decision is a major milestone for the municipality. The tagging of EPCOR to design, build, operate and maintain the sewer system for 20 years was good news to Karim Kassam, general manager of EPCOR Water Services BC. "We were very delighted to know we were the selected company," Kassam said.

Macgregor said the true cost of the selected proposal is currently unknown as some costs, such as right of ways, are not available. But Macgregor said some more number crunching will be done soon. "I hope we would be in a position within the next week or so to be able to do that," he said of possibly releasing figures to the public. Other details of the project, including the exact area served, have also not been released. Companies were asked to submit proposals to serve at least 90 per cent of the village core.

Sooke had originally asked for a $16 million Canada-B.C. infrastructure program grant to help pay for a proposed $24 million project. The district was told by Minister George Abbott of the provincial Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services the total cost had to be reduced. Sooke choose to make a proposal call and left the problem of reducing the cost in the hands of those designing the system. Macgregor said the cost of the accepted proposal was "substantially lower" than the original project.

Now Sooke will finish preparing its grant application for re-submission. Macgregor said meetings with officials, including Abbott, from two provincial ministries have been arranged to discuss the grant application.

The mayor noted BCG Services also had a very strong proposal and said American Water Services Canada’s bid had some strengths but staff and council felt it didn’t measure up to the other two. Macgregor said the number of parcels served and the cost per parcel were the key criteria in rating the proposals, as well as a catchall called "value added," which included such items as risks associated with excavation. The packages were rated by municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt, administrator Tom Day and a pair of consultants - one an engineer and the other specializing in public-private partnerships.

"They (EPCOR) were the ones that had the largest number of single family equivalent parcels served," Macgregor said. "They also had the lowest cost per parcel."

Kassam said this is just the beginning of a relationship between the company and Sooke, which he said actually started with EPCOR’s study of the community and conversations with various stakeholders when working on its proposal. He feels one of his company’s strengths is how it works with communities.

"We need to have open communication with the public," he said. "They need to be informed."

George Butcher, spokesman for Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes (WRATH), said his group had no comment at this time as there are few details available.



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