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

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Sewer voters likely headed to polls December 13, 2003
By Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror September 10, 2003

If all goes as scheduled voters will be headed to the polls Dec. 13 to say whether they support a proposed community sewer system.

Monday night Sooke council authorized a proposed schedule for assent of the electors. But councillors John Stephen and George OBriain both wondered if more time is needed for public information and decision making before the vote.

"It seems to me to be a very ambitious project," said Stephen, who expressed a concern about having enough time to investigate other treatment options and properly inform the public. He suggested holding off on the referendum until 2004.

Administrator Tom Day said moving the voting date back could prove costly to the district. He told council Sooke's preferred partner, EPCOR Water Services Inc., had in its proposal a pipe cost guarantee that is valid until Dec. 31. Day did not have specific numbers but the administrator said he has been told pipe costs have increased by about 20 per cent. This estimate was confirmed by a nod from Lee Ward, who is serving as EPCOR's operations manager for the Sooke project.

Coun. Tom Morino said he'd like to see a letter confirming the cost of the pipe.

In the past Stephen has expressed a wish to investigate other treatment and outfall options. Stephen wonders if tertiary treatment is the way to go instead of the proposed secondary treatment. As part of the approved schedule, Associated Engineering will provide a report to council Sept. 29 comparing costs and environmental implications between secondary treatment with disinfection and two kinds of tertiary treatment.

Stephen said Monday night time will be needed to investigate and discuss changing the treatment option if it appears feasible.

But Coun. Marcus Farmer said there is a public expectation for council to move along toward a vote. He said its understandable if there are some changes to the schedule, but if council is not deciding to change the process Monday night it should move ahead. Mayor Janet Evans agreed and said problems that come up will be dealt with.

Stephen and OBriain were both concerned if there was enough time according to the schedule for the public to receive the information they need to vote. Stephen once again stated he feels how informed the public are will determine whether it passes or fails.

Evans said she feels the timeline offers plenty of opportunity for people to get information.

Answers coming

As part of the public information process council, district staff, EPCOR and consultants will try to answer questions posed by the public at a pair of meetings July 7 and 8.

At those meetings it was stated the answers would be made available at a public meeting in August or September. But on Monday night Day and Evans said some of the answers are not yet known as the council still has to make many decisions on the proposed sewer system.

Sooke resident George Butcher wondered during a public question and comment period Monday night why some of these answers were not available. "I think your credibility as a council is at stake here."

But Evans said the answers will come when they are fully known. "We're sorry we can't get them to you sooner. Until the decisions have been made it cannot be done."

Council likes Gardner's idea

For the past couple of years Lois Gardner has been active in trying to get the message across to the Sooke council the cost of the sewer system could be a hardship to some resident.

However, the Golledge Avenue resident now feels she has come up with a solution that could help some residents financially deal with the yearly $650 fee and the as yet unknown cost of connection. In a letter to council Gardner proposed creating a "residential infill" zone for the specified area.

Under her plan most owners would be able to create a new lot where their septic field used to be. She said this would allow residents to recoup the cost of their sewer hookups and the annual fee and may make them more comfortable in voting yes in the referendum.

"It would enable residents to keep their houses instead of having to sell out and move because they can't afford to stay. Some retired folks might want to sell their old house and build on the new lot next door or could just sell the lot," Gardner wrote.

She recommended the minimum size of the lot be 3,000 square feet and included with her letter illustrations of the type of houses that would be feasible for such a zone. They range from 600 to 976 square feet.

Council didn't act on Gardner's idea, but Evans, Stephen and OBriain all said they liked the idea and thanked her for her input.

OPSRRA still opposes ocean outfall

Sooke's neighbours are concerned about the outfall from the proposed sewage treatment plant.

Council received a letter dated Aug. 3 from Otter Point and Shirley Residents and Ratepayers Association president Ken Pungente expressing his organization's opposition to the ocean outfall. The letter states the organization agrees with the need for sewers, but feels a referendum needs to be held to give people the option of paying for "a superior method of disposal."

"This is an issue which will affect this community's image beyond this council's lifetime. We implore you to be visionaries and look to the future."

Day said the cost of an outfall to land would increase the proposed project's cost greatly. A technical report, completed by Stantec Engineering in 2001, shows the estimated capital cost of an outfall into the Strait of Juan de Fuca being $1.2 million while the cost of disposal land would be about $6.8 million.

Council decided to invite OPSRRA's directors to Sept. 29's meeting.



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