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

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Candidates feel sewer is an issue

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror Wednesday October 30, 2002

EPCOR Water Services Inc. does not appear to be too worried that the Nov. 16 municipal election will scuttle their proposal to design, build and maintain a community sewer system for Sooke for about 20 years.

"EPCOR is approaching this project with the understanding that it will be developed with the needs and resources of the community at the forefront," wrote Karim Kassam, EPCOR’s general manger, in an e-mail response to questions asked by the Sooke News Mirror. "With that, it’s vital that we work closely with the district’s elected and administrative officials, and communicate extensively with residents. Regarding the election - it goes without saying that we’ll leave it up to the residents of Sooke to decide who represents them.

"We are still in the early phases of this project and it will only go forward if the community decides it meets their long term needs."

All seven of the current Sooke council members are seeking re-election and have stated they still feel it is very important for sewers to come to the community. The current members of council are Mayor Ed Macgregor and councillors Lorna Barry, Ron Dumont, Janet Evans, Marcus Farmer, John Farmer and Jeff Stewart.

The first seven members of Sooke’s governing body feel sewers are needed for economic development and to protect the Sooke Harbour and Basin.

"You could do so much in the downtown core if there were sewers in place," Barry said.

Council candidate Rick Armour, a member of the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce, agrees. He feels sewers are needed for economic development and to allow for the beautification of the community.

Council candidate Mel Dobres is also supportive of bringing a sewer system to Sooke. The local Liberal riding association president said he has already been working on using his Ottawa connections to help the municipality land a B.C.-Canada Infrastructure grant (for about $17.5 million) to bring sewers to town.

However, the other candidates challenging for positions on the governing body are not all on the sewer’s bandwagon.

"There are just a whole host of things that cause me to be concerned," said council candidate Tom Morino.

Among the red flags for Morino are the cost of the system and what he feels is not enough public discussion on the issue.

"I want to be satisfied in my own mind that there has been a thorough discussion of all the issues," he said.

Mayoral candidate Jerry Wolf as well as council candidates George OBriain and Norm Upton all share the same concerns.

OBriain said one woman told him she’d have to remortgage her house to pay for the system, while Upton said the cost of $600 a year could mean a tax increase of 50 to 60 per cent for some people in the specified area. Wolf agrees.

"There are a lot of people living here who are retired or living on fixed incomes. ... This is going to be an extra kick in the teeth for them," he said.

Upton feels other things are needed before sewers, such as alternate traffic routes to help with the congestion in the downtown core, which he feels sewers will only increase.

"I think we are in big trouble if we build these sewers now," Upton said.

But members of the current council argue waiting only means you will pay more in the future.

Morino and OBriain have both said they oppose the way council plans to gauge consent with those opposing it writing in their comments. Both support a referendum.



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