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To Sewer or not to sewer

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, November 20, 2002

Just what the results of Saturday’s mayor and council election in the District of Sooke mean seems to be up for debate.

With himself and four incumbents — Lorna Barry, Janet Evans, John Farmer and Marcus Farmer — regaining their positions at the table, mayor Ed Macgregor feels the election was an endorsement by voters of the council’s community sewer system initiative.

"In some ways, you could kind of say this election was an informal referendum on sewers," Macgregor said, referring to the system for the core area and Broomhill development that has concerned some with its $17.5 million price tag.

However, council newcomer Tom Morino feels Macgregor might be a little off the mark with his interpretation. The lawyer feels with himself and George OBriain, who both actively campaigned against the system as proposed, knocking off incumbents Ron Dumont and Jeff Stewart that the public might not be fully behind the project.

He vows to fight against the system and, if he fails, to push for a referendum on the matter for the entire community rather than just having a specified area decide if it wants sewers.

"I will be fighting at every opportunity I have within the rules of decorum to put my point forth that sewers are wrong," Morino said.

John Farmer feels once the new councillors have time to study in depth the information available and work council has done on the system there will be a chance for more debate on the subject. Each of the incumbent councillors have stated their feelings, in interviews after their victories, that sewers are needed for the community to clean up the Sooke Harbour and Basin and for economic development.

Evans said she doesn’t feel the "s" issue will be major factor at the council table until there is news on whether Sooke has received the B.C.-Canada Infrastructure program grant it has applied for. The grant would allow for the sharing of eligible costs three equal ways between the district and the provincial and federal governments.

"If we finally do get the grant, we’ll have to go back to the council table," she said.

Barry tops polls

Barry earned the most votes in Saturday’s election as she edged out Evans by two, 1,359-1,357. The retired former CRD director said she was shocked to learn she had the most votes.

"I was humbled quite honestly that people have that much faith in me to put me at the top of the polls," she said.

In 1999, the first municipal election in Sooke history, Barry placed second, with 1,474 votes, behind John Farmer, who had 1,894 votes. Evans was fourth three years ago with 1,095 votes, one spot behind Jeff Stewart, 1,253.

Barry feels the results show the majority of the public is pleased with what council had done and the direction it is going in.

"I just feel overall that people are not too displeased," she said.

Evans noted she was overwhelmed by her placing just behind Barry. She feels the vote showed the public appreciated the work herself and others were doing on committees and in the community.

In Saturday’s election John Farmer earned 1,255 votes, while Morino received 1,038 to place fourth.

Morino said he was a little stunned to finish just behind Barry, Evans and the elder Farmer, all of whom he said are obviously well-regarded for their tireless work over the years for the community.

"The fact that I came in just behind them, I am a little taken aback," he said.

Marcus Farmer placed fifth, the same position he earned in 1999, with 1,013, while OBriain placed just 15 votes, 939-924, ahead of Dumont to grab the final chair at the council table. Stewart received 697, finishing ninth, behind Rick Armour, 820, and ahead of Norm Upton, 559, and Mel Dobres, 525.

"It’s a humbling experience to be given the trust of public office and one has fears that not everyone will feel you are living up to their expectation," said OBriain who left town Sunday and could not be reached via phone for comments but e-mailed his remarks before leaving Sooke. "Nevertheless, I am excited about the future and I will endeavour to fulfill that trust given. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the close victory."

OBriain had placed ninth out of 22 candidates with 860 votes in 1999.

The Farmers, a father and son duo, both said they are pleased the voters feel they are worthy of another term. In 1999, Marcus Farmer finished fifth with 1.060 votes.

Ready to work

The final meeting of the current council will be held Nov. 25. The new governing body will be sworn in Dec. 2.

The first priority for the council, after some orientation for the newcomers, will be strategic planning, Macgregor said. He said the sessions will allow for council to set forth its priorities for the future, but especially the next year, and to budget for them.

"We all have our visions and we need to come together with them so we can move forward," John Farmer said.

In regards to the new councillors, he said the sessions will give everyone a chance to get to know each other.

Morino said he doesn’t feel his differing views on the sewer issue will cause any problems with the other business of council.

More than sewers

John Farmer feels as council moves forward it needs to remember a remark made at the Sooke all candidates meeting during the campaign by Phoebe Dunbar. The long-time volunteer said Sooke is about more than sewers.

Farmer feels though sewers are an important issue there are obviously other items the council needs to tackle as well in its next three years.

Ironically, among those issues is a long-term seniors care facility, which appears to hinge on sewers as the properties believed to be the best by the Vancouver Island Health Authority planning department are not suitable for septic systems. All of Saturday’s winners have spoken in favour of the facility coming to Sooke.

John Farmer said he is waiting until the strategic planning sessions are finished to see what issues will become priorities.

Evans, Barry and Marcus Farmer said they feel pushing Grant Road through to Throup and eventually to Phillips Road will help with traffic flow in the downtown core. Barry said among the issues she’d like to deal with is the vandalism that has scarred some of the community.

Among the items Marcus Farmer said he’d like to pursue are devising a long-term plan to deal with litter around the Edward Milne community school and further developing Harbour Park.

Morino said he feels how policing is delivered in Sooke needs to be looked at and he is interested in seeing how the community can best deal with teens in crisis. He also would like to look at establishing a series of integrated trails for hiking, cycling and horse riding.



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