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

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Sewage Outfall Referendum, Editorial, Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror July 8, 2003

The word referendum bounced around during last November’s municipal election. The sound from its bounce grew louder just before voters prepared to head to the polls last month for a municipal by-election.

Monday night Sooke councillors proved they heard what was becoming a "noise" and responded to it. Council, sitting as a committee of the whole, recommended that a referendum for the specified area be used as the means of seeking public consent for the proposed $17.4 million community sewer system. The same seven elected officials, sitting as a council, will vote again on the issue when the proper bylaws are prepared, likely in the fall. The referendum also likely would be held in the fall or early winter.

Monday night’s vote was interesting as it was a change from what Sooke’s first council had proposed less than a couple of years ago. At that time council favoured a council initiative. Under this process, property owners would receive a packet detailing the cost in the mail. Those who were against it would mail back a ballot, while the people in favour wouldn’t have to do anything.

When it came time to vote Monday night councillors John and Marcus Farmer and newly elected Mayor Janet Evans cast their votes for the initiative they had previously favoured. In keeping with their feelings expressed during recent campaigns, councillors Tom Morino, George OBriain and John Stephen all voted for the referendum.

Sitting on Sooke’s first council, Lorna Barry had backed the council initiative. But during the recent byelection campaign, during which she supported mayoral candidate Lori Messer, Barry said she heard time and time again that people wanted a chance to voice their feelings on the subject.

She listened to the electorate and responded.

Now it’s the voters turn to listen and to question and think. Council, with its recommendation to go with an option that costs about $9,000 more, seems to be giving voters the chance they wanted to speak . Now qualified electors must make sure they are voicing the correct choice.

Under the council initiative, property owners,. i.e. those who would be picking up the tab directly, would be the ones "voting." Now that responsibility has been extended to every qualified elector in the still being defined specified area.

They must fully educate themselves on the proposed system and its costs. This is a decision that will have an impact on the future of this community. Sewers and the needed treatment facility, if done properly, can be a tool to improve our environment, provide opportunities for economic development and improve the odds of much needed affordable housing and a seniors care facility being built here.

This newspaper will continue to strive to bring whatever information it can about the system to the community. The trust the public puts in us to do this is very much appreciated and it humbles us.

But we also encourage the public to do whatever they can to get their questions about the system answered. Please just don’t listen to what your neighbours are saying. Take the time to get the correct information.

Council was asked a head-spinning number of questions Monday night during an hour and half of public input and it was expected more questions would be posed Tuesday night, after the News Mirror’s press deadline. Evans has said council will come back to the public with answers in August or September.

This is good, but if people have more questions and concerns they should strive to find answers. As Coun. Marcus Farmer stated Monday night council and staff are available at all times to answer questions.

Council has listened to the electors and given them a referendum. Now it’s up to those who wanted it to live up to their end of the deal, to get the right information and cast their ballots for Sooke’s future.



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