District: specified area is a start for sewers
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 15 2003
Sooke resident Lois Gardner said she's not against a community sewer system, but she wonders if the specified area it would serve accomplishes the District of Sooke's goal of improving the environment.
"I'm just wondering what gives them the logic and scientific basis to say it is going to clean up the harbour and basin," she said.
Gardner, who lives in the specified area, is concerned such areas as Whiffin Spit are not included in the specified area. She said with the slope there is likely leakage from septic systems and noted how close to water it is.
But Sooke mayor Janet Evans said the system has to start somewhere and doing nothing isn't an option.
"Phase one (the specified area) is a huge area," said Evans, who currently lives in the specified area. "Phase two can come in when development happens."
The specified area was approved unanimously at an Oct. 6 special council meeting. Coun. George OBriain was elected last November after expressing his concerns about the project. The councillor said last week he can understand the concerns of people like Gardner and Gail Hall, who also voiced her concerns about Whiffin Spit being left out to council. But OBriain said he felt it was the best plan at this time.
"At that point it becomes too big and costs too much," the councillor said of adding areas such as Whiffin Spit.
Sooke's mayor encourages people to find out whether they are in the sewer area or not. A map of the area is included in an advertisement in this week's News Mirror and copies are available at the district office and on-line at www.district.sooke.bc.ca. Those people who are unable to locate their property on the map can contact the district office at 642-1634. The mayor also encouraged residents to read the district's sewer bulletins, which are mailed out weekly and are reprinted in the News Mirror. Those living or owning property in the specified area head to the ballot box Dec. 13 to vote on the future of the proposed system.
If passed, only those in the specified area will pay for the system. The district is estimating an annual cost of no more than $650 per year for single family homeowners. This covers both operating and capital costs.
Property owners would have to pay the one-time cost of having their home connected to the system. This involved the burying of pipe on their property. This cost will vary from property to property.
As for Whiffin Spit not being included in the specified area, Evans said much of the development in that area is relatively new and thus, the septic systems still have life, compared to some of the older parts of Sooke.
Stan Eakin, who has two developments near Whiffin Spit, agrees. Though Eakin said he wholeheartedly supports the sewer project, he said he hasn't heard cries from his developments or the rest of the area about systems failing.
"Everybody seems to be very happy with the system they have here now."
But the developer said when sewers do come to his area he's quite prepared to pay his share.
Gardner said the public needs to understand and be assured council is doing what's best financially and environmentally for the community. She wants to comprehend the process the district is going through.
"We need to understand what they're doing," she said.
Evans said the specified area boundary is not just an arbitrary line and an extensive process was followed to create it. Tom Day, Sooke's administrator, said the original focus of the project proposed by the district's first council was to sewer the downtown core. He said the service area was expanded as Capital Regional District stormwater sampling showed high fecal coliform in the Broom Hill area.
Using a specified area including primarily the core and Broom Hill, Sooke applied for a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant to cover about $16 million of the project's estimated $24 million price tag. The district was informed its request for cash was too steep. Instead of trying to revise the plan itself, Sooke sought out a private partner to come up with a suitable design, specified area and to lower the cost.
After an extensive process, the district tabbed Edmonton-based EPCOR Water Services Inc. as its preferred partner. The project now carries a price tag of about $17.8 million, of which $11.6 million is covered by the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant Sooke received last spring.
Lee Ward, project manager for EPCOR, said the rules of competition for Sooke's partnership was to serve at least 90 per cent of the core area. After that the companies could choose whatever areas they wanted to service. Ward said the companies had to serve the most single family equivalents (SFEs) for the low cost per SFE.
The EPCOR representative said this meant the system was designed to serve the areas with the highest density.
"You had to cut the boundary at the amount of money Sooke had to spend," Ward said.
The proposals were judged on the number of parcels that could be served at the deadline in 2002. This meant EPCOR chose not to include Sunriver Estates in its proposal because the development hadn't been approved yet and there was no benefit under the grading system of serving it.
However, the Phillips Road development as well as other property outside of the service area announced this summer had an opportunity to buy into the system this fall. The properties, such as Sunriver, that have bought in paid 100 per cent of the extra capital costs associated with servicing them, including the expansion of the capacity of the treatment plant and the collection system. These property owners have produced letters of credit totaling $2.5 million to be included in the specified area.
With these properties buying in the opportunity appeared for other areas, known as "in-fill," to be added without a huge cost increase as the pipe was being installed near them. For example, Rhodonite Drive was added because the Ponds housing development and the John Phillips Memorial Golf Club property bought in, according to Ward.
Some people have asked why Henlyn Drive was not included in the specified area as it is between two areas that are serviced. Ward said it was not feasible to serve the Henlyn area immediately because of the grade and the rock.
But Ward emphasized, as did Evans, this is the first sewer project's first phase.
"We are making sure the system is expandable," Ward said.
Sewer Vote: A referendum for those who reside in or own property in the Sooke sewer specified area will be held on Dec 13. Maps of the specified area can be downloaded from www.district.sooke.bc.ca found in this week’s News Mirror at the municipal hall.