Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.
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$ 4.7 million
$ 2 million
$ 2 million
Filtration and activated carbon
$ 1.2 million
*BNRis a biological nutrient removal to lower ammonia and phosphorus in the effluent.
*MBR is a membrane bioreactor to remove suspended solids and increase removal of total suspended solids, ammonia, phosphorus and endocrine disrupting chemicals.
*Source: Associated Engineering
"It is likely that most, if not all, of these improvements, would be very difficult to detect in the marine receiving environment. As a result, the reasons to go beyond secondary treatment would likely be political rather than scientific," wrote Dave Forgie, a senior environmental engineer with Associated Engineering, in his report to council. He reiterated these points at the end of his presentation Monday night.
"I'm not making a judgment. I will make some conclusions and you can agree or disagree," said Forgie, who has worked with the District of Sooke on the sewer project over the past few years.
Council did not make any decisions while sitting as a committee of the whole Monday. It is expected to give direction to staff at a Monday special council meeting on a variety of sewer system related issues, including level of treatment, connection cost administration, treatment plant site location and connection deadlines.
Also at Monday's meeting, council received a report from administrator Tom Day regarding the suggestion of building a trunk system for the entire community and then sewering specified areas as time goes on. In Day's report, which was received by council without comment, the administrator said the idea appears at first glance to be more equitable to all Sooke taxpayers but said there are a number of issues that would make it difficult to carry out.
Among the concerns expressed by Day is the cost to taxpayers as in some rural areas there are fewer payers per kilometre of pipe; a larger, more expensive pipe size would have to be used to plan for the future even though it's not needed now; a delay in the project would likely occur and the cost of additional collection system components would have to be paid for by local taxpayers.
During his presentation Forgie detailed a number of options Sooke could add on to improve the quality of the effluent. With each came a cost, which municipal staff said would have to come out of taxpayers' pockets.
"As it stands today any costs beyond what we've estimated is all District of Sooke money," municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said. He explained the $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant was for the $17.4 million project council has proposed.
Forgie's presentation photos showed the difference in what the effluent from various forms of treatment would look like. "The effluent will look good going out - absolutely crystal clear," he said, in reference to the effluent from a tertiary plant. Forgie, answering a question from Coun. Lorna Barry confirmed Sooke could upgrade its plant to tertiary treatment in the future.
Following Forgie's presentation, Pungente stated he was in favour of sewers. But the plumber feels Sooke is not going far enough as its plan doesn't include a storm sewer plan.
Coun. John Farmer said the community can't continue to do nothing and they have to start somewhere. A Liquid Waste Management Plan is being formulated for the entire district.
Coun. John Stephen had been one of the proponents of Sooke re-examining tertiary treatment as an option. However, Stephen arrived Monday night after Forgie's presentation. Stephen and his wife were on a five-day cruise from Vancouver to San Francisco, but he opted to leave the ship in Seattle to attend the meeting. He had planned to fly into Victoria, but fog forced the cancellation of his late morning flight. Stephen turned to Plan B and along with a trio of stranded flyers he rented a car and drove to Port Angeles, hopped the ferry and once on Vancouver Island drove his own vehicle to Sooke to attend the council meeting that followed the committee of the whole gathering.
A phone survey shows 76 per cent of people residing in the proposed specified area are in favour of the District of Sooke's proposed sewer project, but Mayor Janet Evans said Monday night unless there is a drastic change residents are headed to the polls Dec. 16.
The survey, which also showed people are worried about the system's cost, was recently conducted by Victoria's Venture Market Research Corp. at a cost of $8,500. The concept was to get an idea of people's understanding of and feelings about the proposed $17.4 million system for the downtown core and such areas as the Broom Hill subdivision. The result seemed to be people want the system to happen as 42 per cent, in one of survey's early questions, strongly supported the system and 34 per cent "somewhat supported" it.
Sooke government watchdog Gail Hall asked council if the rumour she had heard that if the survey results were favourable the council initiative method, similar to a counter-petition, would be used was true. This idea had been suggested in a News Mirror editorial Sept. 24.
In a Tuesday interview Evans said prior to the survey she had told some local businessmen that she would be willing to bring the issue back to the table if approached by council members, if she thought it was appropriate. She said this was not attached to the survey at all. Evans said at this time she feels it is too late to reconsider the referendum.
The council initiative had been favoured by Sooke's first governing body and Evans herself, along with councillors John and Marcus Farmer, voted against a motion for a referendum earlier this year.
Council and the public received a two-page handout of "survey highlights" via the mayor's list Monday night. Evans said a more complete analysis and data of the survey, which included 308 specified area residents, will arrive for council later this week.
Coun. John Stephen remarked he was surprised by what the survey showed were the effects of price on how people felt about the system. According to the survey highlights a lower price tag means more support.
"If we can do anything to bring the cost down, we should," Stephen said.
Of the 16 per cent of those surveyed who opposed the proposed system, 54 per cent said they were against it because "taxes will be too high/it will make owning a home too expensive/too expensive to hook-up." Thirty-three per cent said their current septic system worked well and there was no need to change.
As far as negative issues associated with the system, 54 per cent of residents identified installation costs/higher taxes. According to the highlights information, this was significantly higher than all other potential issues, including the impact of the outfall system on the ocean (15 per cent).
It has not been set out in bylaw form yet but council has discussed making hookup to the system mandatory. This would require a one-time fee for connection and pumping out the existing system and filling it with sand. This cost would vary by property. According to the survey, if this cost could be financed over a number of years, the level of strong support rises to 47 per cent. District of Sooke staff has asked various lending institutions for ideas on how this could be done and a few letters outlining options such as adding it to an existing mortgage have been received back.
The estimated annual fee of $650 or less seemed to have a strong effect on support. When survey respondents were informed of this cost, just 30 per cent strong supported the system and 30 somewhat were behind it.
A number of councillors said they were surprised by responses that showed the feeling of a lack of knowledge about the project. Coun. Lorna Barry was shocked 79 per cent of residents said they were at least somewhat aware of the system and just 23 per cent thought they were very aware. Evans was surprised only 32 per cent could estimate the percentages for the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant received for the system. The $11.6 million grant is split by the federal and provincial government with the municipality picking up the other third of the proposed project's cost.
"As we know, the public is starving for knowledge and we will try to get it to them," Evans said, encouraging people to attend the district's planned open house Nov. 3.
The best laid plans of mice and men ... In one of last week's editorials, "Those paying most can't vote," it was stated "Sooke's governing body has taken away from the people who will be paying the most for sewers." The intent behind this statement was to point out that an individual business is likely to pay more for the sewer system than a homeowner and businesses which are owned by corporations do not have a vote in the referendum. Residential property owners will be paying for the system as well, but they have a vote. Some business owners who have served this community for years have had their votes taken away.
Part three, division four of the Local Government Act reads: "For clarification, no corporation is entitled to be registered as an elector or have a representative registered as an elector and no corporation is entitled to vote."
It's a very clear statement and applies to the upcoming Dec. 13 District of Sooke referendum on the proposed community sewer system. By choosing a referendum over a council initiative, which operates similar to a counter petition, Sooke's governing body has taken the vote away from the people who will be paying the most for sewers. The council initiative would have allowed each property owner to vote.
Sooke is currently undertaking a phone survey to understand how people feel and what they know about the proposed $17.4 million community sewer system for which the community has receive an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant.
If the independent, random survey shows there is a great deal of support for the system within the specified area, which are the people who would vote in the costly referendum, council should reconsider its decision to go to referendum.
This would save taxpayers about $9,000 and put the decision back into the hands of those, both residential and commercial property owners, who will pay the most for it.
Monday's announcement regarding policing costs for unincorporated areas and municipalities under 5,000 people was expected to be the hot topic at the Union of BC Municipalities annual convention in Vancouver.
The announcement, holding off on the plan until 2007, doesn't affect the District of Sooke except for the boundary restructure study, Mayor Janet Evans said in an interview last Friday. But Evans said herself, district staff and councillors will be busy as there are plenty of others issues affecting the municipality discussed at the convention, which draws about 1,200 local politicians.
One of the items Evans is interested in is lobbying Rick Thorpe, Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise, for funding of a road connecting Grant Road to Throup Road. She feels this secondary artery, parallel to Sooke Road, is needed as the community grows. Evans acknowledges Sooke has already received an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant for its proposed community sewer project. However, she thinks the two go hand-in-hand."When sewers come, development will come and the roads will be needed."
Thorpe's ministry is one of the ones involved in the grant program. Coun. Lorna Barry said the community charter and health concerns are items she is interested in at UBCM. She said herself and Coun. George OBriain will be attending a session on health care and its funding. Barry also is expected to present Sooke's flag to the UBCM. The flag was unveiled in the community last fall after a coat of arms was developed.
Barry and Evans both said the convention allows politicians and staff to make connections with those involved in the provincial government and other communities. Barry feels these connections can help Sooke in the future. Evans also said a variety of ideas are discussed and she finds the convention energizing. "I always come back gung-ho."
It will be Coun. John Stephen's first UBCM visit and he was looking forward to it. "I want to come home with a sense of belonging to an organization bigger than South Vancouver Island," Stephen said in a Friday interview. "I want to see how we can call upon and be helped by UBCM."
While its not on the UBCM's official agenda, Evans, Barry, Stephen and Coun. Marcus Farmer all said a highlight of the weeklong stay in Vancouver is expected to be a Thursday tour of the Kent wastewater plant. Some councillors have visited before, but Evans said it is good for the new members of council to see how a secondary treatment plant works.
When council returns from UBCM, treatment is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
On Monday a representative of Associated Engineering will present a report to council comparing the costs and environmental implications between secondary treatment with disinfection and two different types of tertiary treatment. In secondary treatment, which is what Sooke's first council proposed, floating and settleable solids and about 90 per cent of the oxygen-demanding substances and suspended solids are removed. Tertiary treatment, as the name implies, goes a step further and takes such elements as phosphorus and nitrogen out of the water.
Stephen has said he would like to see tertiary treatment carefully examined as an option for Sooke. However, he said Friday it would have to be affordable.
Evans said in an ideal world she'd like to see tertiary treatment as well but said council is striving to make the $17.4 million project as affordable for residents as possible. She said, in a Friday interview, she felt, at this time, secondary treatment is the most affordable method for Sooke.
A special meeting is set for Oct. 6 in which council is expected to provide direction to district staff on level of treatment, connection cost administration, connection deadlines and treatment plant site location.
The News Mirror has received a number of letters asking for council to provide answers to questions posed by the public about the sewer system at a pair of early July meetings.
Evans said she knows she said at those meetings answers would be coming in early September, but certain things have to be done in order for information to be available.
The cost of the system to residents depends partly on how many properties outside the proposed sewer system service area will be served. Property owners outside the area had until Monday to confirm that they wanted to be included in the system. They now have to provide a letter of credit by Oct. 1. Evans said staff will now examine if area pipes running to the properties that want in would be good candidates to be "in-fill" areas.
On Oct. 20 council will meet as a committee of the whole to discuss issues associated with the system. An open house on the project is slated for Nov. 3 and technical presentations will be made Nov. 4. If all goes according to a timetable, council authorized voters in the specified area will be heading to the polls Dec. 13.
If the system passes, Sooke will move ahead with hiring an engineering technologist. The district advertised for the position in June but administrator Tom Day said it opted to hold off on filling the position until the vote.
The administrator said the district didn't want to disrupt someone's life and have them move here and then if the vote failed there would be the possibility there isn't enough work to sustain the position. Day said between 30 and 40 applications were received for the job, which has a salary in the range of $55,000 per year plus benefits. Day said a letter was sent to short-listed applicants explaining the situation.
After months of speculation, Sooke Mayor Janet Evans is happy she can now offer some actual estimates to concerned residents regarding the connection cost for the proposed community sewer system.
EPCOR Water Services Inc., Sooke's preferred partner in the project, recently presented estimates of 14 connection costs compiled by Chew Excavating Ltd. to the district. For residential gravity service (no pump required), the estimates range from $1,800 to $16,000 with six of the 10 being under $3,000.
"I am happy top see the average is around $2,500," said Evans, noting she felt the homes selected included both best case, average and worst case scenarios.
The proposed sewer project for the downtown core and areas such as Broom Hill is slated to be voted on by those living in the specified service area in a Dec. 13 referendum. The district has received a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant of $11.6 million for the $17.4 million project.
Lee Ward, EPCOR's operations manager, said at some homes connection options exist that could lower costs. For example, he said in some cases pipe could run down a driveway instead of through a yard that would require landscaping. He provided information to the district which said about $6,000 could be shaved off the $16,000 estimate.
A trio of estimates received for homes needing pumps because they are below the road range from $2,350 to $5,300. One estimate was done on a commercial property in the downtown core and it was $4,800.
"I think it is doable," Evans said of people who connect to the system. "They do have two to three years to save."
The estimates include the cost of burying pipe to run to the homes, pumping out a standard 750 gallon septic tank and filling it with sand and landscaping what has been dug up to run the pipe. If the grass at the homes was watered and looked after, Chew Excavating estimated costs with the idea of lifting and replacing sod. If the grass was dead topsoil and seed were planned for.
In cases where gravity systems weren't possible, there might be extra costs associated with installing pumps. These were not included in the estimates as they would likely require a plumber or electrician.
Day said the District of Sooke will be purchasing pumps for those who need them. He also noted for pumped service a plumbing permit is required but the district will not be charging for it.
While Chew Excavating made the estimates, Evans said homeowners are free to use whoever they wish. She hopes it will provide work for local contractors. Local contractors contacted by the News Mirror were unable to comment on the estimated costs before the paper's deadline.
Day said the district would encourage people to get together as a block and shop the project around to various contractors.
The administrator said financing options from local banks and credit unions will be available to homeowners. As of last Thursday letters stating options have been received from the local branches of Coast Capital Savings and CIBC. Other local banks are expected to submit letters as well, Day said.
Among the options included in the letters are adding the cost to the mortgage and amortizing it over the balance of the mortgage; a 10-year term loan at prime or a combination of the two; a personal line of credit in which repayment is based on three per cent of the outstanding balance or $60, which ever is greater; a personal loan with fixed or variable interest rates; and overdraft protection service.
In all cases, those borrowing must meet credit guidelines.
On top of the connection costs those in the specified service area will be paying up to an estimated $650 a year, which includes operating as well the capital cost of the project. Day said those located outside of the specified area will not be paying for it. It is expected homes in the specified area will have to connect, although council has yet to pass the bylaws that would make that happen.
The specified area is still being fine-tuned. However, it includes the area bordered by Drennan Street to the east, Maple Avenue South to the west, Helgesen Road to the north and the Sooke Harbour to the south. It is also likely some properties west of Maple Avenue South will be included.
George Butcher, spokesperson for Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes, could not be reached for comment on the estimates.
Connection Cost Estimates
Features affecting price
2 m deep, shrubs
1.2 m deep, sod, trench rock
1.5 m deep, sod
1 m deep, sod
1.5 m deep, sod
1.2 m deep, topsoil, seed
1.5 m deep, steep bank, fence, trench rock
1 m deep, retaining wall, concrete driveway
1.5 m deep, sod
1.2 m deep, four retaining walls, fence, rock
1.0 m deep, garden, deck, topsoil
1.0 m deep, sod
1.0 m deep, topsoil and seed, gardens
1.0 m deep, asphalt
The Sooke council has set up the community for a chance at an early Christmas present. On Monday night the district's governing body tentatively approved a timetable that would have the long-talked about sewer system referendum held on Dec. 13. Some councillors wondered if the timetable was a little too ambitious. Their major concerns were linked to outfall/treatment options and public information.
Some in the community still wonder if tertiary rather than secondary treatment is an option as well as whether a disposal system other than an ocean outfall is a possibility. They are right in their stated goal of trying to help Sooke achieve the best system possible. However, the system proposed appears to be the best that can be achieved economically at this time. 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.
Sooke has been fortunate to receive an $11.6 million grant for the proposed $17.4 million project. While it is a lot of money, the grant provided through the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program is not enough to cover the cost of tertiary treatment and/or another outfall method. This cost would have to be born by the taxpayer and some are already concerned the estimated $650 annual fee and the as yet unknown cost of hook-up could hurt them financially. It is important to keep in mind the treatment option proposed meets all of the necessary guidelines.
Some councillors also were concerned about the public having enough time to receive the information they require on the project. This is a truly valid concern. Those in the service area, mainly the downtown core and areas such as the Broom Hill subdivision, need to fully understand what is being proposed. The district has tentatively slated a committee of the whole meeting for Oct. 20 to discuss issues and a public open house Nov. 3 as well as an evening meeting with technical experts Nov. 4. A yet to be defined public information process is set for Nov. 17 to Dec. 12. Those in the service area also need to take it upon themselves to seek out information and to have their questions answered.
Yes, the timetable, which can be deviated from, might seem to be fast, but thank goodness. After years of talking and waiting for the grant money to come, now is the time to act.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Residents living in and near the District of Sooke's downtown core shouln't be surprised to be asked about sewers, infrastructure grants, and connection costs when they answer the phone in the evenings.
Council has decided to undertake a phone survey to determine the public's understanding of and feelings about the proposed $17.4 million system for the downtown core and such areas as the Broom Hill subdivision. The survey is expected to help guide council and staff during the public information part of the process before a slated Dec. 13 referendum on the system. The municipality's governing body vetted the questions Monday night and some residents could be involved in a phone "pre-test" as early as tonight. The pre-test includes 25 households and the survey's goal is 300 responses. The survey, which includes on average 18 questions, is expected to take three or four evenings to complete and the results will be delivered to council about two weeks later.
The president of the company hired to do the survey doesn't expect his interviewers to be brushed off like telemarketers often are.
"People have a vested interest to respond to the survey," said T. Brian Killip of Venture Market Research Ltd., which will be paid $8,500 for its work.
Coun. George OBriain was concerned if a couple of questions about the pros and cons of the system were slanted to receive certain responses. Killip assured the councillor they were not intentionally slanted and balance was strived for.
The queries that caught OBriain's attention were:
OBriain also wondered why the survey did not touch on such issues as the ocean outfall and whether tertiary treatment is desired. Killip said the idea was to stay away from the technicalities and give council a general sense of how those in the service area feel.
A number of questions refer to residents having to hook-up. Coun. John Stephen wondered if that was appropriate to ask as council hasn't yet made that decision. He suggested council could set a policy in which residents would pay the estimated $650 a year fee but would not have to hook-up and pay for that unknown additional cost if they have a working septic field. However, administrator Tom Day said he believed it was a condition of the $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant Sooke received that homes in the service area must connect. Day said he would research the issue.
Killip said each interview subject is supposed to be the home's principal decision maker. He hopes the entire interview takes less than eight minutes but he said in test runs it has gone to near 10 minutes. As well as questions about the project people will be asked about their income, age and how many people live in their household. This information will be compared to census data to see that a sample representative of the area is taken.
The calls are expected to occur between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. Coun. Lorna Barry expressed a concern that people would be bothered during supper time. Killip said different families dine at various times so it is hard to miss supper time. But he said callbacks can be arranged.
Killip said a pre-test is done to make sure the questions are easy to understand.
"If we get a lot of 'don't knows' for a question, we'll want to look at that," said Killip, who noted his business has done surveys for universities, other government bodies and private businesses such as grocery stores. Its call centre is located on Spencer Road, but Killip said his interviewers dial out to locations all over North America.
The president told councillors they could come down to his company's office and listen in on the interview process. But he said there will be confidentiality and councillors will not learn from the company who responded and how.
The following are some sample sewer survey questions, taken from the package presented to Sooke council Monday night for its review:
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.
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."
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.
Over the past three years the District of Sooke has held countless meetings regarding the proposed $17.4 million community sewer system. At first glance, all of those meetings might make one question why council would want to spend up to $8,500 on public opinion research regarding the system. Haven't there been enough meetings?
However, a second glance shows there is plenty of evidence from those meetings that prove the phone survey is a worthy idea.
At each meeting a number of the same questions are posed. Many of these are quality questions. The fact they come up often doesn't mean there are not satisfactory answers, because, in most cases, there are. Perhaps the information just isn't getting out to people. As well as seeking opinions on the system, the survey, as suggested by preferred partner EPCOR Water Services, would also attempt to determine how the residents prefer information to be disseminated.
Many of the same faces can been observed in the audience of these meetings. This is good in that these people are interested and involved in the future of their community. They are there to learn and to ask questions.
But the reality of life is that some people simply can't attend weeknight meetings, even if they are interested. The survey increases the chances of these people's concerns being expressed.
Another high point of the survey is that it is targeted at the people who live in the proposed specified area in the village core and areas such as Broom Hill the system would serve. It is also these people who would be voting in a referendum. Some councillors have wondered if the voices of the people in the specified area are being heard and this is certainly a chance to listen to them.
And as far as its cost, in a project of this magnitude, importance to the community - environmentally, socially and economically - and hefty price tag up to $8,500 is a small price to pay to give the public another chance to help it succeed.
This community needs a sewer system for a variety of reasons. However, it must be done correctly and in a way that is palatable to the residents. This survey should help give an idea of how those who would be affected feel about it and perhaps can tweak the project, if needed.
This system needs to be successful in the referendum, because the $11.6 million "gift" from the senior levels of government won't be coming around again soon.
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.
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.
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.
Some Sooke residents seem to be concerned if the District of Sooke's proposed community sewer system should provide more treatment and if an ocean outfall is appropriate.
These concerns and others about the cost of the proposed system for the village core and areas such as the Broom Hill development seemed to be voiced the most at committee of the whole meetings July 7 and 8 at the municipal hall. During the two meetings council took input from the public and plan to answer questions and concerns at a public meeting in August or September.
George Butcher, in particular, was vocal in asking council to take another look at other treatment methods. Though Butcher didn't identify himself as such, he has served as the spokesman for WRATH, Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes.
However, Mayor Janet Evans said the community has to be realistic about playing cost and the extent of treatment off each other.
"You can't have it both ways," she said. "You can't have better treatment at less cost."
But Coun. John Stephen said in an interview last week that based on comments made by the public at the meetings, he's interested in investigating alternatives to the secondary treatment with disinfection and an ocean outfall that has been proposed. Coun. George OBriain said he feels council is basically committed to go ahead with the process as proposed, but he will work to upgrade the plant in the future.
Evans and Coun. John Farmer said through its request for proposals for a private partner council sought the best treatment at the best price.
"If they could have provided tertiary treatment within the budget, it would be there," Farmer said.
EPCOR Water Services Inc. has been tabbed as Sooke's preferred partner. Sooke administrator Tom Day said no contracts have been inked with the Edmonton-based company, but it is their proposal that is currently on the table.
Both Evans and Farmer said they were very comfortable with what has been proposed.
"I think we are going with the best we can at this time," Farmer said.
He emphasized Sooke can't continue to pollute the harbour and basin by ignoring failed septic treatment. He also said secondary treatment meets all of the required provincial and federal standards.
Last week the Sierra Legal Defence Fund revealed tests that showed levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 160 times greater than the provincial marine water quality guidelines for protection of aquatic life. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund is asking the Capital Regional District and the province to invest in a secondary treatment system for Victoria immediately. According to staff at the defence fund, secondary treatment removes 99 per cent of PCBs.
A technical report, completed in 2001 by Stantec Engineering for the district, recommends the ocean outfall. It estimated the capital cost of an outfall into the Strait of Juan de Fuca being $1.2 million, while the cost of disposal to land would be about $6.8 million including land acquisition.
In an addendum to that report, the capital cost differential between secondary and tertiary treatment is estimated to approach $2 million.
During last week's meetings, area resident Steve Holland suggested pumping the effluent onto hardwood forests. The member of Sooke's economic development committee said the forests could be used to grow valuable wood such as black walnut, oak and sugar maple. He feels secondary industries such as oak flooring, wooden boat building and woodcarving could also flourish.
He estimated it would take about 40 acres of land to use the effluent from 2,000 homes. Holland also suggests blending the project with the proposed sewage treatment plant and ocean outfall. He said the effluent could be pumped onto the forest during a growing period from April to October.
Peter Dixon, who lives in Victoria and owns property in Sooke, asked council to consider a treatment plant designed to reuse and recycle water. He said the water could be used for such purposes as toilet flushing and irrigation.
The fight to get sewage treatment for Victoria’s Capital Regional District (CRD) was dealt a blow this spring when BC’s Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, the Hon. Joyce Murray, quietly approved the region’s Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP).
The plan does not require the CRD to take any immediate steps to stop dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In fact, it will be another decade before the regional district even has to consider the possibility of secondary treatment. Instead, the minister agreed to public education to reduce toxic contaminants in sewage, and the development of a "trigger" process to identify if and when enough harm might be occurring to the marine environment to require treatment.
The Minister’s letter of approval outlined a number of monitoring requirements and deadlines for the CRD to meet over the next few years, beyond what the CRD had proposed. The "trigger" approach means that if certain levels of contamination were exceeded, the CRD would be required to build a primary treatment plant within the subsequent three years.
If the CRD and province develop a process that is biologically sensitive and comprehensive enough to detect the earliest signs of contamination, and set these as the trigger, it is possible that some waste treatment could be in place within a few years in Victoria under Minister Murray’s plan. It’s a risky approach, based on the assumptions that those setting the trigger will get it right and that three years will be fast enough to prevent irreparable harm – but of course, there is no "signpost" showing what precisely what level of cumulative damage to the marine environment is "too much".
Victoria is not the only trouble spot in our region to get off lightly. Two of the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s (GVRD) treatment plants are still only at primary level, and the GVRD’s antiquated combined sewage overflows are still allowed to discharge raw sewage and toxic contaminants into local waters whenever a heavy rain causes an overflow.
Minister Murray recently approved the GVRD’s LWMP, which sets an extremely slow timeline for resolving these issues. The approved plan gives the GVRD until 2030 to upgrade the two plants to secondary treatment and 2050 to eliminate the combined sewer overflows!
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Ministry, the CRD and the GVRD, and working to ensure they live up to all the commitments and deadlines outlined in the approvals. We’ll also be urging the federal government to take the necessary steps to begin enforcing the federal Fisheries Act. If this Act was applied consistently to municipal wastewater, it could go a long way toward eliminating sewage pollution and moving all our communities to a minimum of secondary treatment.
Residents living in the specified area for the District of Sooke’s proposed community sewer system will likely head to the polls in the late fall or early winter to tell their municipal government how they feel about the $17.4 million project.
Monday night, council, sitting as a committee of the whole, directed staff, by a 4-3 vote, to prepare bylaws for a referendum, rather than a council initiative, to gauge public consent for the project. The bylaws will still have to be endorsed by council, likely in the fall. The specified area, as proposed, will include the village core and the Broom Hill development, but its outer boundaries have yet to be clearly defined.
The decision had been a hot topic in last month’s municipal byelection. Coun. Lorna Barry, who campaigned for mayoral candidate Lori Messer during the election, said she heard a lot about the issue before voters headed to the polls to vote for mayor and a new councillor. She said she didn’t meet anyone who was against sewers, but that the people she spoke to wanted an actual vote at a ballot box.
"Everyone thought that a referendum was the way they should make their wishes known," she said.
Barry voted in favour of what she heard, going against the counter-petition format she had backed as a member of Sooke’s first council. In theory Barry’s vote broke the deadlock.
Councillors Tom Morino, John Stephen and George OBriain all had strongly stated their feelings that a referendum was needed during successful campaigns in the past year. During the recent campaign, newly elected Mayor Janet Evans had said she favoured the council initiative. As members of Sooke’s first council, Evans and councillors John and Marcus Farmer had voted for the counter-petition. The Farmers repeated their votes Monday night. Before the vote on the referendum a motion to proceed with a council initiative, put forward by John Farmer, failed 3-4.
"I don’t believe that we are doing the public justice," OBriain said during council discussion about Farmer’s motion regarding a counter-petition.
One of the knocks against a referendum has been voters don’t come out in force. But Stephen said he doesn’t think there will be any apathy this time around. Himself, OBriain and Morino have all strongly stated they feel the people need a chance to speak on the issue.
Under the council initiative, property owners would receive detailed packages about how much the system will cost them. If they agreed with it, they would do nothing. If they opposed the proposed system and the cost, they would fill out and return the enclosed papers.
After hearing OBriain, Morino, Barry and Stephen speak during council discussion on John Farmer’s motion, Marcus Farmer acknowledged it was clear which way the vote would go. But the councillor said he still favoured the counter-petition method as he felt it asked the opinion of the people who would be spending the money.
In a staff report, administrator Tom Day recommended a counter-petition be used. One of the reasons he gave was that with a referendum owners of commercial property, some of which is owned by corporations, would not receive a vote but they would be paying a larger chunk for the system.
Marcus Farmer also said he felt the public had shown support for the system and the council initiative by twice in the past year electing a mayor who was pro-sewer and pro counter-petition. Last month’s byelection was caused by the March 28 death of mayor Ed Macgregor.
Ron Dumont, a member of Sooke’s first council, said during a public question and comment period Monday night that he felt the counter-petition gave people more opportunity to vote. He pointed out that during the process people would have about a month to send in their package if they wish rather than just on a specified voting day.
Using the method the first council had discussed it would take 50 per cent of property owners having 50 per cent of the assessed value in the specified area voting against it to kill the project.
Under the recommendation contained in Day’s report that weighting requirement would have been stripped out.
Day’s report stated the referendum would cost $9,000 more than the council initiative. However, he said the cost of the counter-petition, which would involve a large amount of staff time, had not been determined.
Also during the meeting the committee of the whole recommended council establish a specified area boundary policy, which was included in the meeting package. According to the proposed 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 assciated with servicing the specified area according to 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.
Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said the boundaries have yet to be set in stone by bylaw and that there are still requests for people to be included in the system.
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 Sept. 1 for all associated costs of upgrading the system to accommodate the projected flows from the property.
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.
District of Sooke residents and business owners appear to have countless questions about the community’s proposed sewer system.
During the first of two slated committee of the whole meetings on the subject Monday night the district had scheduled an hour for public input and comments. But after 60 minutes there were members of the audience, which included about 45 people, who still had queries or comments for council and staff. Coun. George OBriain recommended, and council agreed, to extend the public input period and to meet again Tuesday night to hear more from the voters. Monday’s session went about a half hour longer and Tuesday’s was held after the News Mirror went to press.
While some questions were answered Monday night, other could not be and Mayor Janet Evans said answers will be brought back to the community in August or September. No representative from EPCOR Water Services Inc., the firm Sooke has selected as its preferred partner, were in attendance. Some audience members said they wished technical experts had been invited as their questions could not be answered immediately.
Many of the questions asked Monday night were similar to ones raised at other meetings on the topic.
Coun. John Farmer, who chairs Sooke’s sewer committee, said there are various reports available that may answers some of the public’s questions. Coun. Marcus Farmer emphasized council and staff is willing to do what it can to answer the public’s questions at all times and not just during a meeting.
The questions posed Monday ran the gamut from the cost to taxpayers for the proposed $17.4 million system to the specified area it would serve to the treatment process. About 20 people spoke at least once and some submitted questions in writing to council. Some had many questions. For example, Fred von Ilberg passed onto district staff a list of 26 questions he had about the project.
Among the concerns expressed Monday night was the cost. The district has said the annual cost to taxpayers will be $650. This includes a tax to cover the capital cost of the project and a user fee. One unidentified Sooke resident questioned if this was too steep.
"How are you going to make these people in your community feel if they can’t live here anymore?"
Evans and John Farmer said it is a concern and work is being done to try to offset that.
"We intend to explore every possible way we can to ease the burden of expense," Farmer said.
Some audience members were concerned about the cost of acquiring land for the treatment plant. Sooke has received an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure Program grant for the project and the district will pay for the final third of the cost for the project. But the cost of the land acquisition was not eligible for the grant. Administrator Tom Day said land acquisition will be paid for by property owners in the specified areas through the $650 yearly fee.
Diane Bernard questioned why those in the specified area must pay for the cost and why the burden can’t be spread out over the entire municipality. Von Ilberg said he feels the cost of acquiring the land will be far more than what can be covered in the $650 yearly cost.
Day, in a News Mirror interview, declined to say how much has been budgeted for land acquisition out of concern for the process.
Evans said it has not yet been decided where the plant will go. She was also asked if the district would consider expropriating land if it can’t purchase it. The mayor said she hopes expropriation won’t happen and couldn’t answer whether council would consider it.
The public was also curious if there was a timeline for the grant. Day said the district has yet to receive a contract for the grant, which was announced in late May. But he expects the project would have to be completed in three to four years.
Sewers were clearly on the minds of the about 150 people attending the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce’s all candidate’s forum last Thursday night.
While a variety of questions were posed to the four mayoral and five council candidates, how public consent would be gained for the project and how it would affect people seemed to capture the most attention.
"What will you do to ensure people didn’t lose their properties," an emotional Glenn Dickie, who lives in the preliminary specified area, asked the council candidates Ron Dumont and Jeff Stewart to applause. Both candidates had served on Sooke’s first council, which initiated the project. Dumont and Stewart explained there will be payment plans available.
"I don’t think anybody is going to lose their home," Dumont said to the crowd at the Sooke Legion.
Jen Smith, a Broom Hill resident, was also concerned about the cost of the $17.4 million system for which Sooke has received an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant. Under the way the proposed project is currently set up only those in the still being defined specified area served by the sewer system would have to reach into their wallets for it. Smith, who also lives in the proposed specified area, asked the council candidates if they would support a different formula for funding the project, possibly with the entire district paying for it. Moderator Rod Sluggett, the chamber president, asked for a yes or no answer, and though some wanted to qualify their answer, they all said yes.
Another big topic regarding sewers was the consent process. The first council considered using a council initiative which has been defined as a counter-petition. Property owners would receive packages detailing the cost of the project to them and if they were against it they would return papers indicating they were opposed. Both the mayor and council candidates were asked if they would support a referendum for the specified area instead.
Mayoral candidates Bob Clark, Lori Messer and Jerry Wolf all said they felt a referendum was needed. Council candidates John Stephen and Ben Filgate agreed.
"A referendum is the only way to carry out justice fairly," Stephen said.
Mayoral candidate Janet Evans and council hopefuls Stewart and Dumont all served on the first council. They all said Thursday they supported the petition method. Stewart said it would be cheaper, while Dumont said it was the most fair way as it would be the property owners and not renters who would have to deal with the new costs. Stewart did say he was not opposed to a referendum if that was the will of the council of the day.
Council, in 2001, had discussed using a weighting method in which it would take 50 per cent of the property owners with 50 per cent of the assessment to stop it.
However, acting Sooke mayor Marcus Farmer said in an interview last week he was not adverse to the weighting idea not being removed, but said he could not speak for council. Evans said she would like to see the weighting removed so it is one property, one vote, which she said was the most fair.
Sooke government watchdog Gail Hall questioned if it was possible under the Local Government Act to strip out the weighting system. Sooke administrator Tom Day said in a Friday interview that according to the municipal solicitor that it can be done.
When the topic did drift away from sewers a number of interesting things came up, particularly during the mayor’s portion of the evening.
Al Jones said there is currently no real economy in the community and asked the candidates if they would hire a full-time business development officer. Clark said he is an advocate for economic development and favours hiring an economic development officer. Messer also supported the idea as she said it is hard to continue to do all the work with volunteers as economic development commissions in the area have mostly in the past. Wolf said he would see if it was needed.
Evans noted that economic development is one of the duties of municipal assistant planner Sabina FooFat.
"I think that it’s the government’s role to provide the infrastructure so that business can come in and stimulate the economy," Evans said.
East Sooke’s Joan Coates asked the mayoral candidates if they would support building a bridge from Billings Spit to East Sooke as it would provide another way in and out of the community and would allow greater access by those across the water to Sooke’s businesses.
Wolf first said he wasn’t sure Billings Spit was the right place and suggested possibly Whiffin Spit. But he said maybe two bridges would be appropriate. Clark feels another bridge is needed over the Sooke River and wondered if a private organization could organize a ferry between Sooke and East Sooke. Evans said she appreciated East Sooke residents’ desire to shop in Sooke but wondered if the matter could realistically be done because of the cost, alluding to the figure of $6 million that had been thrown around. Messer said she had many questions about the idea.
During the councillor candidate question portion Sooke firefighter Jon Utz said if there was a fire during the day only four firefighters would likely respond. He asked what the candidates would do to address the problem or go about resolving it.
Filgate was very emotional about the issue.
"We have to bring some more people in or we are going to pay the price and pay it dearly," he said, while the others complemented the department and its volunteers and said they needed more information.
Fire chief Bob Kelsey, in a Monday interview, said the department at times does have a low turnout but said it is not critical. He pointed to incidents where volunteers will respond to calls at 3 a.m. when they have to work at 7 a.m. the next morning.
Sooke Coun. Tom Morino is concerned a resolution passed by his fellow district elected representatives last week might not be valid.
At a March 17 special meeting, council accepted in principle a draft letter that set out the district’s plans in regard to a bylaw regarding newly created lots less than one hectare being serviced by sewers, if the proposed community system is a reality. The meeting, Mayor Ed Macgregor said, was needed to keep the district’s application for the $17.5 million project on the table for a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant.
But Morino, at Monday’s council meeting, questions the validity of the resolution the provincial government is now acting on. His concerns are linked to a pair of special meetings being called last week.
At a March 10 council meeting it was decided to hold a special meeting on March 13 at 7 a.m. However, a notice of the meeting was not posted outside the municipal hall at least 24 hours before the event as required. Members of the public raised this point during the public question and comment period that precedes council’s discussion of business at each meeting.
It was decided to dissolve the meeting and to meet again on March 17.
But Morino, a lawyer who specializes in criminal cases, questions if, under the Municipal Act, council could make the decision to hold another special meeting.
The act states a special meeting can be called "(a) by the Council at a meeting of Council; and (b) at any time by the Mayor or Chief Administrative Officer."
Morino feels if the March 13 meeting was improperly constituted then it was not a meeting and then it was not possible for council to decide to meet again. This would then make the March 17 meeting and the business conducted at it invalid, he feels.
The first year councillor expressed his concerns when council considered the adoption of the minutes of a variety of meetings, usually a quick process with little, if any, discussion. But Morino first wondered if there was no meeting March 13 how could there be minutes for it? He later expressed his other concerns.
Council, with only Morino voting against them, adopted both sets of minutes.
Sooke Administrator Tom Day said during Monday’s meeting he feels the matter was handled correctly. He said the idea behind having minutes from the March 13 meeting was to note the concerns of the public and what happened. The administrator also feels council proceeded properly to deal with the issue at hand. A management committee was meeting later on March 17 to look at the grant applications.
"It’d be impossible to do business if an emergency comes up and you have to wait two weeks to call a meeting," Day said.
The letter, in question, states the district will continue with its Liquid Waste Management Plan process, which will include a settlement suitability analysis for non-sewered areas. The data coming out of this process will be used to amend the community’s Official Community Plan, zoning and possibly subdivision bylaws. The province had previously been asking for a bylaw that would ensure any newly created lots less than one hectare would connect to the sewer system.
T’Sou-ke First Nation band members and elders had a number of questions about Sooke’s proposed community sewer system’s outfall, which would be located near Reserve No. 2, when district representatives attended a public meeting last Wednesday.
The major concerns expressed by the nation’s elders, articulated by Frank and Jack Planes, related to whether the effluent would be caught up in the in-shore current and forced back to the beaches. Frank Planes, the hereditary chief, also wondered why the proposed two-kilometre long pipe curved instead of going straight out.
Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said the district will take those questions and others posed at the meeting to the consultants and bring them back to the nation.
John Stephen, a Sooke resident and former fisheries officer, was given some time by the nation following a district presentation, to express his views on the subject. He emphasized the importance of the environment to Sooke and said he is concerned what could happen to it if there was a problem such as a pipe breaking in an earthquake or if the plant had a major breakdown.
"I’m not against sewers but I am against the discharge pipe," he said.
Frank Planes said the elders would wait for answers from the district and then they would meet and speak about the issue.
The District of Sooke council will hold a special meeting Thursday morning to discuss the grant application for the proposed community sewer system.
The item was slotted on the district’s Monday committee of the whole meeting, but was postponed until Thursday at 7 a.m. in council chambers to wait for more information. Mayor Ed Macgregor said the meeting will be in regards to the terms and conditions of the grant.
Macgregor said council won’t know anything more Thursday about whether its application to the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program for the $17.5 million project was successful. He doesn’t expect news in that regard until April.
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin blitzed through the western reaches of his riding. A Saturday community meeting in East Sooke was followed by a Monday visit to Port Renfrew, a dinner engagement the same evening in Sooke, with the busy day brought to a close with one of Martin’s "town hall" meetings in the Sooke Legion.
By far and away, Martin said the item preying on most people’s minds is the potential war in Iraq as evidenced by the number of calls his office is receiving. Following the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce-hosted dinner, half of the queries posed to the physician/politician from the 35-person audience pertained to that possible event.
If an American-led war occurs, Martin said it may be over in two to four weeks, but what happens after could be much more damaging, referring to the "blowback" effect.
"If you do something, it comes back to haunt you," Martin said, mentioning the repercussions America suffered after its meddling in Pinochet’s Chile, Nicaragua and the Middle East.
The post-war, TV-generated sight of suffering Iraqis will serve to galvanize the Arab world, Martin said, and a new reign of terror will erupt.
When the Washington sniper duo were doing their random shootings, Martin asked his audience to stop and think about the cost wreaked by that terrorism. The economy in the Washington, D.C. area was gunned to a standstill. If teams of Arab snipers decided to operate all over the U.S., the effect would be immense.
Sooke by the sea isn’t familiar with such terrors.
Instead, sewers seem to be the delighting (or depending on the perspective, terrorizing) some. "Ed (Mayor Macgregor) believes sewers will start and be completed within two years," Martin said.
But Sooke businessman Jerry Liedtke was looking for more concrete answers and he wondered if there has been some "stumbling."
It’s been more of a setback. At the request of federal secretary of state for Western Economic Diversification Stephen Owen, some "fine-tuning of a few minor details" needs to be completed by the District of Sooke, Martin said.
The District still expects a positive answer within a couple of months from the federal government. The $17.5-million sewer project for Sooke’s core needs municipal, provincial and federal approval before ground can be dug.
Martin said the province is "basically in agreement" with the project.
But the grant request still has to compete with requests from all over Canada for the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure funds. The federal government looks at the merits of each application, Martin said.
Bruce Lemire-Elmore wondered how Sooke’s request would rate amongst the other national demands.
Martin said a very expensive project serving a small population has less chance than an expensive project for a larger population. Sooke’s competitors for the hand-out are unknown.
A sewer system would help attract development, but before the companies move in, Martin said land for commercial/industrial users has to be identified and incentives for new businesses have to be devised.
With the provincial government distancing itself from regulatory responsibilities, Martin said municipalities will be given more powers, perhaps through the currently "stuck" Community Charter.
Local governments could use those powers as a magnet, to draw the businesses they desire, and instead of making commercial interests pay the highest property taxes in the world, innovative partnerships can be forged.
But the Canadian Alliance MP cautioned against attracting polluting, destructive enterprises. Sooke’s superlative ambiance has to be maintained.
He said it always amazes him how places like Sooke, bestowed with a lot of rural flavour, build out rather than up.
"Why not have more homes on a smaller area?" Martin posed.
His closing words were not to spread development indiscriminately over hectares and hectares, destroying pristine land in the process.
Tom Morino’s first time through the budgeting process of the District of Sooke has been an eye-opening and enjoyable one for the rookie councillor.
At a Feb. 17 committee of the whole meeting regarding the budget, Morino told council and district staff he was "blown away" by the professionalism and the quality of the reports involved with the process. And while the lawyer is enjoying his first few months in office, there is one item that he still doesn’t agree with - sewers.
As reported in the News Mirror last week, sewers are mentioned in four of the 22 items in the district’s 2003 strategic plan and one could argue are an unwritten component of two more.
Morino and George OBriain earned their council seats last fall following campaigns in which they questioned the District of Sooke’s proposed $17.5 million sewer project.
In an interview last Tuesday morning, OBriain said he was against an ocean outfall and feels more debate and work on the Liquid Waste Management Plan is needed.
Morino couldn’t be reached by last issue’s deadlines.
"It is a mom and apple pie issue," Morino said of sewers during an interview Sunday night. "How can anyone be against sewers? I certainly am not."
What Morino is against is the current proposal. During his campaign he said he remains to be convinced the council initiative is the way to go and Sunday night he confirmed that feeling is still true.
Morino is concerned about a sewer system’s possible effects on taxpayers. Following a Union Of B.C. Municipalities councillor training session, Morino said he is extremely concerned about possible downloading of responsibilities from the province to municipalities, which he believes would increase the burden on taxpayers.
During the strategic planning sessions, brainstorming of and rating of the district’s priorities was done. Morino said he placed a zero rating next to any item he felt was directly related to a sewer system.
The councillor feels downtown revitalization, sidewalks and pathways are more pressing priorities.
Some on council argue revitalization of the village core would include a sewer system, but Morino questions if it is really needed to attract more businesses.
Mayor Ed Macgregor has said he feels sewers are still the first priority for the district as far as major infrastructure.
It might be a different Sooke council, but sewers still remain a priority, according to the district’s 2003 strategic plan.
Sewers are mentioned in four of the 22 items in the document and one could argue are an unwritten component of two more.
"I think sewers are still our first priority as far as major infrastructure requirements for our community," Mayor Ed Macgregor said in a Tuesday morning interview.
Following last November’s municipal election, when Macgregor and four councillors successfully were re-elected, the mayor said he felt the community had endorsed the direction Sooke was heading in regards to sewers. However, newcomers Tom Morino and George OBriain questioned this assessment as they had expressed concerns about the proposed sewer system during their campaigns.
Morino, a lawyer, was in court Tuesday and could not be reached by the News Mirror’s deadlines. But the day after the election he told the News Mirror, "I will be fighting at every opportunity I have within the rules of decorum to put my point forth that sewers are wrong."
OBriain said he feels the goals that include sewer references in the strategic plan are certainly worthy, even though he is against the idea of an ocean outfall. OBriain feels there is a better way to handle the community’s sewage and feels more debate is needed to come up with a system that is affordable and takes advantage of cutting edge technology.
"I think we can better it and I think we can better the cost of it," OBriain said, alluding to the $17.5 million price tag.
The strategic plan came out of a series of council strategic planning meetings and sets out council’s goal for the next year or so. The plan is one of the first steps of the budgeting process and before the budget is adopted in May council will attempt to fund what it feels are the most important priorities.
The word "sewer" pops up in the following items in the strategic plan: sewers for core area, Liquid Waste Management Plan, multi-level care and assisted living facility and harbour boardwalk, with the idea of doing work on the project in conjunction with the installation of a sewer. An argument could also be made that sewers are part of downtown revitalization and economic development.
"Many things we want to see and the long-term care facility is probably the best example are not going to happen until we get a sewer system," Macgregor said, alluding to how the right site for a care facility that has appropriate soil for a septic system hasn’t been found.
But OBriain feels those goals can be accomplished once the Liquid Waste Management Plan helps identify how to deal with sewage for the entire area and not just downtown core and Broomhill that the proposed sewer system is for.
Sooke is still awaiting news regarding its application for a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant. The grant would allow the sharing of the project’s eligible costs between the municipal, provincial and federal governments. There has been some talk of an infrastructure program with just federal and municipal cost sharing, which would provide another option to Sooke, but nothing definite has been announced yet.
What was slated as a public meeting on Sooke’s liquid waste management plan last Thursday night turned into an at times heated debate on the district’s proposed community sewer system.
Critics of the sewer system took advantage of the meeting, and the presence of a Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection member, to lobby against the plan and the process the district has used. The about half dozen opponents present in the council chambers Thursday night once again questioned why a liquid waste management plan hadn’t been completed previous to the sewer plan and stated their opposition to a variety of other issues, including the project’s price tag of about $17.5 million.
"I say to you what we are looking at here is a charade," said George Butcher, spokesperson for Worried Residents Against Rate Hikes in Sooke, expressing his belief the process is phoney as various documents for the sewer system have already been submitted.
This put Mayor Ed Macgregor, other district representatives and supporters on the defensive. At times debates broke out within the audience with members arguing about the information being presented. About 50 people attended the three hour long meeting, which was preceded by an hour long open house.
"If you want a no-growth (community) really push against sewers. If you want something positive to happen to the community support sewers," Macgregor said to applause.
Some members of the audience pushed for a district-wide referendum on the sewer plan.
Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt warned the audience not to get bogged down at the meeting in arguing over political questions in regard to the sewer system. The engineer pointed out that the liquid waste management plan and application for a grant for the sewer system are separate processes. The sewer system is proposed for only the core area of Sooke and the management plan is designed to deal with the entire district. The plan, according to consultant Dave Forgie of Associated Engineering, will suggest options for dealing with sewage and stormwater in the areas not served by sewers.
Forgie came looking for public input and he certainly got an earful last week, though the majority of comments didn’t deal directly with the liquid waste management plan.
"We have to have feedback. ... I probably don’t know the answers without being able to get input from you," Forgie said.
Earlier in the meeting the engineer said "I’m coming at it with fresh eyes ... and to listen."
According to a pamphlet provided at the meeting, while no work has been done under a liquid waste management plan, the district has already accomplished the equivalent of the three stage plan for the core area. Its work regarding the areas outside the core is equivalent to stage one, and the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection has decided the municipality can move into stage two for the entire district.
"Enough work has been done that it would be a waste of your money to go all the way back to stage one," Forgie said.
However, not all audience members accepted this conclusion.
"I do not accept a stage one/stage two combo. ... This is a process that is leading us into real trouble," said Diane Bernard, a former regional director.
A stage one of a typical management plan includes identifying plan boundaries, identifying the current sewage and stormwater treatment methods and developing a list of potential wastewater options. Stage two, which Sooke is currently working on, involves such steps as development of district-wide wastewater management scenarios, reviewing the need for expanding the sewer service area beyond the core area, and completing an economic comparison of the options. The final stage of the process is the financing and scheduling of the selected options.
Butcher feels the process should go back to stage one. He feels the citizens should be the ones driving the process and choosing what end results the community wants.
Macgregor explained that Sooke’s first council tackled the issue of sewering the core area without a liquid waste management plan as money was available in the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program, which had a deadline for applications of March 14, 2001. The initial grant application was for the three levels of government to share in the $24 million project. However, Sooke was informed early last year the price was too steep. Instead of attempting to pare the costs down itself, the district called for proposals for a private-public partnership. EPCOR Water Services Inc. was chosen as Sooke’s partner and a grant application was resubmitted in September. The mayor said the district expects to hear an answer regarding its application in April.
The District of Sooke’s travelling sewer show hit last Wednesday’s Rotary luncheon and precise answers were not on the menu.
"All we can do is give an estimate," is how Sooke Coun. John Farmer responded to one question asking how much it will cost to hook up to the proposed sewer system.
Rotarian David Stocks said if some hard numbers and financing solutions could be nailed down, some of the worried, incredulous public may decide sewers are acceptable.
Farmer, who chairs the district’s sewer committee, said several local contractors will be asked to come up with hookup costs. Certain factors have to be considered such as how far the pipe has to travel to reach the structure being served, what material has to be excavated to lay the pipe and what it will cost to decommission existing septic systems.
Those costs will vary from house to house but where some consistency will appear is how much each household pays each year, via property taxes, for the capital, operating and maintenance costs.
Tom Day, Sooke’s administrator, said the "objective is that everyone pays the same." The figure Farmer quoted was $650 annually.
Another question mark is where the service boundaries will be drawn. "It changes daily," Farmer said, referring to people who call the municipality, asking to be part of the proposed service area. The current boundaries are west of the Sooke River, bordered by the Harbour, south of Helgesen Road and east of Maple Avenue. "They’re flexing all the time," Farmer said.
A few of the 30 Rotarians in attendance commented on different schemes to alleviate possible financial hardship involving the hookup charges. Having the payback carried over a time period such as 10 or 15 years was mentioned. Day said representatives from two financial institutions have information about what programs are available for cash-strapped taxpayers.
One thing is definite. If a business or homeowner has put in a state-of-the-art septic system it’s days are numbered. They’ll have to connect if they’re in the defined area, Farmer said.
Day expects positive news in April when the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program may announce that the municipality will be getting a grant to cover two-thirds of the system’s costs. The total price tag is $17.5 million, based on a successful bid from Alberta-based EPCOR Water Services, which will enter into a public-private partnership with Sooke for the construction and maintenance of the system.
Sooke taxpayers will be left to pay the remaining $5.83 million of the project. Some savings will be realized, Day said, because if all goes as planned, the septic pipes can be installed when Centra Gas starts laying its natural gas pipes in Sooke this fall.
Rotarian Steve Holland proposed a way to put a positive spin on the controversial project. He suggested the municipality examine different pilot projects involving the use of the sewage waste, which is slated to be treated and then dumped in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Small scale alternatives like "putting 10 per cent of the sewage on trees," was one suggestion Holland made. Farmer said alternative uses have been examined and the findings can be accessed in district documents.
Sooke mayor Ed Macgregor had a good idea, but the completely wrong moniker when appointing Councillor John Farmer as the sewer project ombudsman.
According to the Oxford dictionary, an ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate complaints against public authorities. In some ways, maybe Farmer fills the bill, but the term also carries with it connotations of an unbiased, outside person dealing with a problem. We are not saying Farmer can’t see both sides of a problem, but in these matters he is still a representative of the municipal government.
It was a good idea on Macgregor’s behalf to have someone on council deal with citizens’ concerns that can’t be ironed out at the staff level.
It’s just that it is not appropriately named. Macgregor should reconsider naming the position as sewer project liaison or council sewer project representative.
The second public question and comment period at Sooke council meetings is generally quiet, but Monday night councillors John and Marcus Farmer found themselves under fire.
Sooke residents George Butcher and Lois Gardner questioned the various appointments of the father and son duo at council’s inaugural meeting Dec. 2 to a variety of positions relating to sewers. In a Tuesday interview, Mayor Ed Macgregor said he does not plan to re-examine the appointments. "I haven’t any plans to change things," Macgregor said.
Marcus Farmer, along with George OBriain, was named as liaison to the liquid waste management plan public advisory committee, while both Farmers were appointed by Mayor Ed Macgregor as liaisons for sewer implementation. John Farmer was also tabbed as the sewer project ombudsman, with Marcus Farmer as an alternate. John Farmer is also council’s liaison to the Capital Regional District’s on-site management advisory committee.
Gardner questioned if John Farmer could hold those positions. He owns a third of the commercial building at the corner of Sooke and Church Road and Gardner feels he could benefit from the potential the property has if sewers come.
"(He is) in a position to gain by the virtue of sewers going through," Gardner said, referring to the section of the Municipal Act that disqualifies representatives from voting on matters they have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest. "It is a pretty serious matter."
Sooke administrator Tom Day said a legal opinion was sought about two years ago on the matter. He said the opinion from the solicitor was that the project was of a wide scope and a number of people would benefit if sewers came. John Farmer pointed out that he himself requested the opinion, just to be sure.
Prior to Gardner, a former Metchosin councillor, speaking, Butcher questioned Macgregor’s choice of the Farmers for the various committees. Butcher is the chairman of the Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes rate payers group, but did not indicate Monday he was speaking on behalf of that group.
"My concern relates to the lockhold the councillors Farmer have on matters related to sewer."
In response, Macgregor said he doesn’t feel any councillor has a lock on any matter. He said all decisions are made by a consensus of council. The mayor reiterated that in a Tuesday morning interview and said in his appointments he tried to match councillors’ interest and knowledge with the jobs.
Butcher also questioned the idea of the elder Farmer as an ombudsman. According to John Farmer, in an interview last week, his job will be dealing with problems residents have relating to the sewer system that can’t be dealt with at the staff level. Butcher feels an ombudsman should not be an elected politician, not be an advocate and not be a defender of action.
"I personally feel, after seeing councillor Farmer in action the last three years, that he doesn’t meet any of those criteria," Butcher said, noting he feels Macgregor should look further afield on council or outside of the elected body to fill the position.
Macgregor said he was looking for someone on council who was known in the community and could deal one-on-one with residents. John Farmer did not comment on the issue.
On paper one of the first decisions of the second council of the District of Sooke appears unanimous.
However, observers at Monday’s inaugural council meeting might have noticed newcomer Tom Morino did not raise his hand to vote in favour of approving Mayor Ed Macgregor’s recommendations for committee appointments. But afterward Morino explained, with a smile, he wasn’t trying to set a dramatic tone.
He said he didn’t raise his hand either in favour or against the appointments because he just didn’t feel he knew enough about the various committees.
"I trust the mayor’s recommendations," Morino said, noting he understood what he did counts in the affirmative.
Following the taking of oaths of office and allegiance, the appointing of acting mayors (with each councillor filling in for two months in case of an absence), Macgregor’s inaugural address, the committee appointments were council’s only order of business on the evening. It was the first time Morino and George OBriain took their earned spots at the council table, joining Macgregor and incumbent councilors Lorna Barry, John Farmer and Marcus Farmer. Coun. Janet Evans was away on vacation.
Morino and OBriain took the places of Ron Dumont and Jeff Stewart, who were defeated in the Nov. 16 election. Dumont was among the about 30 audience members present for the occasion and was named to serve on the district’s sign committee and the liquid waste management plan public advisory committee.
The appointments to the latter seemed to grab the attention of some audience members. The eight-member committee will be responsible for providing input on the plan, which provides direction regarding all areas of wastewater management within the district, including the possibility of sewers.
Appointed, along with Dumont, were: Anita Voss, Lorne Nickalson, Randy Clarkston, Hugh Kennedy, Doug Wittich and Glen Varney., A representative of the T’Sou-ke First Nation will be appointed by the band later. John Farmer, the sewer study chair, and George OBriain, who campaigned against the sewer project as proposed, were named as council liasions to the committee. Both Farmers were named as sewer implementation liasions and John Farmer was tabbed as the sewer project ombudsman to deal with concerns the public has. Marcus Farmer was selected as his alternate.
"I’ve tried to put together as eclectic a group as I can," Macgregor said. "I didn’t necessarily want someone who agreed with me, but someone who would join in discussion."
Select committees Boundary restructure committee — Marcus Farmer (chair), Evans, Macgregor (ex-officio), Steve Grundy, Ute Schnarr, Bruce Lemire-Elmore, Sue Smee, Mike Conlin; sign committee — Evans (chair), Morino, Macgregor (ex-offico), Dumont, Bruce MacMillan, Michael Dick, Neil Flynn, Jerry Liedtke; vacation home committee — John Farmer (chair), OBriain
Harrbour Park — Evans, Morino; streets and traffic — Evans; On-site Management Advisory Committee — John Farmer; Sooke Community and Police Consultative Society — Morino; Sooke Family Resource Society — Barry; Sooke Regional Historical Society — Barry; Teens at Risk Committee — Barry; Treaty Advisory Committee — Marcus Farmer; Victoria Family Court Committee Youth Justice Committee — Barry; Water Advisory Committee — Bill Pedneault
Appointments to boards, commissions, societies
Board of variance — Ellen Lewers; Capital Regional District Board — Macgregor, Barry (alternate); Juan de Fuca Water Distribution Commission — Macgregor, Evans (alternate); Regional Water Supply Commission — Macgregor, Marcus Farmer (alternate); SEAPARC — OBriain, Evans, Macgregor; Vancouver Regional Library Board — Barry, OBriain (alternate)