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

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Sewer hook up costs will vary

By Shannon Moneo for The Sooke News Mirror, February 12, 2003

The District of Sooke’s travelling sewer show hit last Wednesday’s Rotary luncheon and precise answers were not on the menu.

"All we can do is give an estimate," is how Sooke Coun. John Farmer responded to one question asking how much it will cost to hook up to the proposed sewer system.

Rotarian David Stocks said if some hard numbers and financing solutions could be nailed down, some of the worried, incredulous public may decide sewers are acceptable.

Farmer, who chairs the district’s sewer committee, said several local contractors will be asked to come up with hookup costs. Certain factors have to be considered such as how far the pipe has to travel to reach the structure being served, what material has to be excavated to lay the pipe and what it will cost to decommission existing septic systems.

Those costs will vary from house to house but where some consistency will appear is how much each household pays each year, via property taxes, for the capital, operating and maintenance costs.

Tom Day, Sooke’s administrator, said the "objective is that everyone pays the same." The figure Farmer quoted was $650 annually.

Another question mark is where the service boundaries will be drawn. "It changes daily," Farmer said, referring to people who call the municipality, asking to be part of the proposed service area. The current boundaries are west of the Sooke River, bordered by the Harbour, south of Helgesen Road and east of Maple Avenue. "They’re flexing all the time," Farmer said.

A few of the 30 Rotarians in attendance commented on different schemes to alleviate possible financial hardship involving the hookup charges. Having the payback carried over a time period such as 10 or 15 years was mentioned. Day said representatives from two financial institutions have information about what programs are available for cash-strapped taxpayers.

One thing is definite. If a business or homeowner has put in a state-of-the-art septic system it’s days are numbered. They’ll have to connect if they’re in the defined area, Farmer said.

Day expects positive news in April when the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program may announce that the municipality will be getting a grant to cover two-thirds of the system’s costs. The total price tag is $17.5 million, based on a successful bid from Alberta-based EPCOR Water Services, which will enter into a public-private partnership with Sooke for the construction and maintenance of the system.

Sooke taxpayers will be left to pay the remaining $5.83 million of the project. Some savings will be realized, Day said, because if all goes as planned, the septic pipes can be installed when Centra Gas starts laying its natural gas pipes in Sooke this fall.

Rotarian Steve Holland proposed a way to put a positive spin on the controversial project. He suggested the municipality examine different pilot projects involving the use of the sewage waste, which is slated to be treated and then dumped in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Small scale alternatives like "putting 10 per cent of the sewage on trees," was one suggestion Holland made. Farmer said alternative uses have been examined and the findings can be accessed in district documents.



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