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

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Only those in specified area can vote in fall
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, July 16 2003

At least half of the people headed to the polls later this year will have to cast votes for a proposed community sewer system in order for it to go ahead.

Last week Sooke council decided by a 4-3 vote to have a referendum on the proposed system for the village core and such areas as the Broom Hill subdivision. Administrator Tom Day said under the Local Government Act, 50 per cent plus one is needed for the system to pass. However, Day said council could set the requirement higher. There has been no in council discussion of raising the bar.

According to provincial legislation only resident electors or non-resident property electors in the system's service area can vote, according to Rachel Parker, Sooke's deputy clerk. This means only those who lives or own land in the specified area are eligible. Corporations, societies and associations will not have a vote. Also, if a property is owned by more than one person, only one can cast a ballot.

The boundaries of the specified area have yet to be set in stone by bylaw. As proposed by EPCOR Water Services Inc., Sooke's preferred partner, the service area is bordered by the Sooke River on the East, Helgesen Road on the North, Maple on the West and the Sooke Harbour on the south.

Information to be coming in fall

During a pair of committee of the whole meetings July 7-8, council listened to questions and concerns from the community regarding the proposed system. About 20 people spoke at least once the first night and 10 more, including many of the same, made presentations the next night.

Some of their questions were answered immediately, but the majority were accepted without comment.

Mayor Janet Evans said the idea was to record the input and to hold a community meeting in August or September to address all of the concerns. She said at that time representatives of various firms are expected to be on hand to answer any technical queries.

A date for the meeting hasn't been set yet.

Meetings get heated

At times during last week's meeting, things got a little heated as the merits of the project seemed to be debated at times.

Coun. John Farmer said during an interview later in the week he did become frustrated at times. He said he felt many of the questions were being asked by people who did not reside in the proposed specified area and they were questioning the ability of council and staff to produce a product that is acceptable to the community.

At one point during Tuesday's meeting, Sooke watchdog Gail Hall questioned if the cost of acquiring land for the treatment plant could be paid by the municipality as a whole, as Day suggested Tuesday, rather than by the specified area as had previously been discussed. Hall felt in responding to her question Day belittled her and, in a letter, to council asked for an apology.

In a letter to mayor and council, Day wrote "I apologize if my comments offended Mrs. Hall." Neither Hall or Day were present when council discussed the matter. Council decided to receive Day's letter.

Coun. Tom Morino said he supports any member of the public who has questions. He also stated he felt it was honourable of Day to submit an apology, but did not feel there was anything offensive said.



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