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District phones for sewer system opinions

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror August 13, 2003

The District of Sooke has decided to spend up to $8,500 to gauge the opinion of the public before it heads to a referendum on the proposed community sewer system.

Council decided unanimously Monday night, during a more than three hour long meeting, to conduct a phone public opinion survey. Only those in the proposed specified area of the project, the village core and areas such as Broom Hill, would be surveyed. It would be these people who would be voting on the proposed $17.4 million system in a referendum later this year.

Coun. Tom Morino asked that council approve all questions before the survey is done, to which his fellow members of council agreed. Council did not discuss the wording of the questions Monday night.

A timeline for the survey was also not discussed Monday night and a company has not yet been hired to carry it out. Sooke administrator Tom Day said it had yet to be determined if 200 or 300 responses would be sought.

Sooke has tabbed EPCOR Water Services as its preferred partner for the sewer project and the survey was suggested by the company. In a letter to council EPCOR public relations member Carol Bruineman described the survey's possible benefits as determining the level of awareness of the project, identifying any concerns council isn't aware of, determining willingness of residents to assume cost, determining how residents want to receive information and gauging overall support or opposition for the project.

Sooke resident David Parsons said during council's first question and comment period Monday night that he was in favour of a survey being done. Parsons felt the survey should include a question worded something like, "Are you in favour of retaining the well operating, private on-site septic systems?" Parsons questions the wisdom of forcing such places as Ecole Poirier elementary school and Journey middle school to connect to a sewer system after making large capital investments in well-working systems.

District seeks liaisons

Also at Monday's meeting, council approved a plan to advertise for neighbourhood sewer liaisons. These liaisons would be residents of the specified area who would attend meetings with staff on the sewer system. Then they would have the role of answering their neighbours' questions and disseminating information about the system. Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said it is just another method of getting information out to people.

Day said the liaisons would be used throughout the entire project, not just during the referendum, to get information out.

Council unanimously approved the idea.

"I think that people need to hear from regular people," Mayor Janet Evans said. "People hear from council. They hear from staff. They need to hear from their neighbours."

Treatment discussed in relation to boundary

Council adopted a specified area boundary policy Monday that would have developers and others who wish to be included in the system's service area buying in. The policy was similar to the one approved in principle at a committee of the whole meeting July 7.

Councllors Morino and John Stephen questioned whether it was appropriate at this time to approve the policy.

Morino said he is interested in an idea brought up by Sooke government watchdog Gail Hall of creating a trunk system and then developing specified area off of it.

Stephen said there seems to be a desire on behalf of the public to consider other options to the proposed secondary treatment and ocean outfall. The councillor said he wonders how the projected costs of these areas to buy in can be determined if there is uncertainty of what the system will be.

Morino asked Day if the district is committed to the predicted course of action in terms of the grant. Day said, as far as the $11.6 million grant went, it was not but a change in direction would cause such things as municipal sewer registration to be redone.

According to the specified area boundary policy, which was drafted by district staff, the $11.6 million in funding received via the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure Program grant be attributed only to costs associated with servicing the specified area according to a proposal made by EPCOR Water Services Inc., the private company Sooke has tabbed as the preferred partner for the system. The policy also allows for the grant to be used for minor infall areas proposed by staff and confirmed by council.

According to the policy, council may authorize the addition of properties into the specified area. But the owner of the property must pay or provide an irrevocable letter of credit by Oct. 1 for all associated costs of upgrading the system to accommodate the projected flows from the property. The Oct. 1 date had been changed from the original Sept. 1 date.

Day said what it would cost people to come into the specified area is still being determined. h3>Kerr says money won't stay around forever

Also on the subject of sewers, council received a letter regarding its infrastructure grant from Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA Brian Kerr.

Kerr, who lobbied for the grant, wrote that he was concerned about remarks stating the money for the project could be obtained at a later date. The provincial politician feels this is certainly not the case.

"If the referendum turns down the sewers, that infrastructure money will go elsewhere," he wrote. "The number of communities applying for the fund far exceeded the funds that were available. ... This is a one-shot opportunity for Sooke to receive over 11 million dollars toward its much needed infrastructure."

Council received the letter without comment.



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