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

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Sewer System Cost Pared Down

By Robin Wark for Sooke News Mirror, September 17, 2002

The District of Sooke’s proposed sewer system now has a capital cost price tag of about $6 million lower than before.

Through its partnering with EPCOR Water Services Inc., of which negotiations are continuing, Sooke has been able to pare the capital cost of the project eligible for a B.C.-Canada Infrastructure grant down from about $24 million to $17.5 million, according to Mayor Ed Macgregor. If Sooke receives the grant the municipality, provincial and federal government will all share in the cost. Some items such as land acquisition cannot be covered by the grant and will have to be paid for by the district.

The price drop, Macgregor said, means taxpayers in the area served by the system will be paying about $600 a year, down from an earlier estimate of $650. "If we are talking about $600 a year that is about $50 a month," Macgregor said. "That is affordable."

On top of this cost homeowners would have to pay to hook up, which they would be required to do within a certain time period, Macgregor said. The mayor did not know how much it would cost to hook up if the system became a reality.

The proposed system would serve the village core and part of the Broomhill development. Macgregor said a map of the service area should be available at the municipal hall in the near future.

As well as a lower cost, Macgregor said the EPCOR proposal also will serve more single family equivalents than the original design. Sooke has tabbed EPCOR to design, build and operate the sewer system for 20 years.

Sooke has resubmitted its grant application and representatives from the district are expected to meet Oct. 7 with Minister George Abbott of the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services, the provincal agency responsible for the grant program. The meeting had originally been slated for September, but was rescheduled.

Tom Day, Sooke’s administrator, said the district feels very positive about the resubmitted application. Sooke had been informed early this year the $16 million it had been seeking from the provincial and federal government was too much. Instead of trying to revise the plan itself, Sooke sought out a private-public partner to come up with as suitable design and to partner with the district.

Macgregor said once the grant is received Sooke will proceed with the public consent process. He said residents in the area to be served by the sewer would have 30 days to voice their discontent with the project.

The sewer project has been a council initiative. A municipal election is set for Nov. 16 and Macgregor said there are some ways a new council could alter the plan through negotiations or actual pull out, though he questions why they would do that.

Representatives of the Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes (WRATH) ratepayers group could not be reached for comment by the News Mirror’s deadline. The group has long been critical of the process the district is going through to acquire sewers and has in the past expressed concern about the cost.

At a Sept. 9 District of Sooke public hearing for bylaws regarding the Sun River Estates development, there were some inferences made by concerned citizens about gravel from that property being used in the building of a sewer system. Some have claimed Sooke views the project favourably because it would reduce the cost of the sewer system.

Macgregor said that is simply not true. "There is no dirty little deal," the mayor said.

He said no material from the development will be used in a sewer project. Macgregor said discussions of gravel from the property being used off the development are in regards to the material being used to upgrade Phillips Road, which down the line the developer would be required to do.



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