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


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2003 Articles


Residents pump experts for sewer information Monday
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror November 5, 2003

Experts were on hand Monday at the Sooke Community Hall to pump out information about the proposed sewer system.

A variety of questions were asked at the afternoon and evening sessions of the open house hosted by the District of Sooke, which was attended by an estimated 300 people. Experts on topics ranging from sewer systems to financial matters were on hand to answer questions. One of the topics that piqued curiosity was pumps, according to Sooke administrator Tom Day.

"It's something most people aren't really familiar with," said Tony Brcic, an engineer with Stantec Consulting who fielded a number of questions about pumps Monday afternoon.

After the News Mirror went to press Tuesday, Sooke council held a meeting in which presentations from technical experts in regard to the system were to be made. Council was also expected to take input and questions from the public.

About 300 pumps will be required for the proposed sewer system, which goes to referendum Dec. 13. The pumps are needed for areas where the service exiting the building is lower than the collection pipe that is installed in the road right-of-way. Brcic said in most cases pumps are needed for houses located on the low side of the road, where it just costs too much to install a gravity-fed system.

The pumps will be purchased by the district, but they will become the property of the property owners. The property owners will be responsible for the cost of installation as well as future maintenance and replacement of the pumps.

Brcic said many people were concerned about the operation and maintenance of the pumps. The pump systems include a collection canister that stores the material up until a certain level and then it will automatically be pumped to the collection pipe. Property owners will be responsible for the electricity needed to operate the pumps. This cost has been estimated to be an average of 69 cents a month, according to a fact sheet supplied Monday by the district and EPCOR. EPCOR is a private company Sooke has chosen to partner with for the project. The sheet stated this compares to a television costing an average of $2.52 a month for electricity or a water heater $19.50.

The pumps are expected to operate between 10 and 15 years before major maintenance or replacement is required. Brcic emphasized pumps have been used successfully in projects in the Western Communities and are actually a part of some on-site septic systems.

The engineer said it appeared many people wanted to know more about the pumps.

"Once you explain everything about them, they seemed a lot more comfortable," Brcic said.

Many questions

Of course, cost was also a major topic of discussion. A Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant of $11.6 million was received for the project, which has a price tag of more than $17.4 million. Under the infrastructure program the federal and provincial governments and the municipality pay a third of the project's eligible costs.

Property owners in the specified area will pay a parcel tax of $495 annually. This covers both operating and capital costs. Owners of what are called "multiple use" properties will pay a sewer generation charge on top of the $495 based on a multiple system. For example, owners of bed and breakfasts and people with a suite will pay more than a single family equivalent homeowner.

Property owners also have to pay for the cost of connecting their property to the sewer system. This cost will be different from house to house because of such variables as the distance from the road and the amount of rock on the property. Homeowners will able to choose which company it wants to have install the system and Mayor Janet Evans said people might be able to save some money by doing some work themselves.

Chew Excavating is one of EPCOR's partners and is also one of the companies people can choose for connection. The company has estimated connection for systems without a pump will cost $120 per metre for excavation, pipe and connection, but it can vary.

In regard to cost, Evans said she has had a number of people approach her concerned about the assessment of the value of their homes. She said they are telling her B.C. Assessment personnel have visited and informed them assessments will be going up. Phone calls from the Sooke News Mirror to B.C. Assessment did not elicit any concrete numbers and representatives said it is hard at this time to make any blanket statements about increases.

Evans said some homeowners have expressed concern the assessment increase would cause a rise in their tax bill and with the charges for sewer on top of it make for a perhaps unmanageable load. But the mayor said people should remember growth and the mill rate also factor into a tax bill. She said the district is committed to keeping the mill rate low so large increases do not happen.

For example, Day said assessments went up eight per cent this year, but the district dropped its mill rate three per cent. This allowed for the five percent increase Sooke had planned on in its 12-year plan to accumulate funds for taking over policing and highway maintenance costs in the future.

Voting concerns

The question of exactly who can vote was also raised a few times at Monday's open house. Sooke clerk Bonnie Sprinkling said the district receives numerous phone calls daily from people who are wondering whether they are in the specified area and if they can vote in the Dec. 13 referendum. The district encorages anyone with questions to call them at 642-1634.

Anyone over the age of 18, who has resided in the specified area for at least 30 days prior to the referendum, is eligible to cast a ballot Dec. 13 if they are also a Canadian citizen and have been a B.C. resident for at least six months.

People who don't reside in the specified area, but do own property there also might be eligible to vote. They must have owned the property for at least 30 days before the referendum, be a B.C. resident for more than six months, and be a Canadian citizen over 18 years old. If more than one person is on the title for the property, written consent of the majority of the owners is needed for one person to vote. Only one owner is entitled to vote as a non-resident property elector.

Corporations do not have a vote in the referendum. If a corporation is on title with other people, none of the people on title is eligible to vote as a non-resident property elector.
To save time and hassle for voters on Dec. 13, the district is urging people to register to vote before the referendum. People can register at the municipal hall before Nov. 28 or Dec. 13 at the Edward Milne community school, where voting will take place.


Referendum Question, Sooke News Mirror October 29, 2003

At its meeting Monday night Sooke council authorized the following question for the Dec. 13 referendum on the proposed community sewer system:

Are you in favour of the council of the District of Sooke adopting Bylaw No. 147, Sooke Core Sewer Specified Area Bylaw, 2003, which authorizes the District of Sooke to construct and operate a community sewer system for the benefit of the specified area designated in the bylaw with the cost to the District of Sooke, including principal and interest on borrowing up to $8,800,000, to be borne by the owners of real property within the specified area.


Strong feelings expressed as council gives first, second readings to sewer system bylaws
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 29, 2003

Coun. John Stephen seemed to bring out strong feelings at a Monday night Sooke council meeting when he once again voiced his concerns about the way the district allowed private property owners to "buy" their way into the proposed sewer system's specified area.

This fall district allowed property owners located outside the proposed specified area to become part of it by paying for 100 per cent of necessary costs for their parcels, including expanding the treatment and collection systems. This added up to $2.5 million. At an Oct. 20 committee of the whole meeting, Stephen wondered if council had the right to do this under the Local Government Act. In response, Sooke administrator Tom Day said advice had been sought by the municipal solicitor and it was viewed as 100 per cent legal.

However, Stephen questioned the legality once again and cited what he felt was a related example from the District of North Saanich. After a brief explanation by Day of how North Saanich's and Sooke's situation varied, some councillors strongly expressed their frustrations about how the issue was brought up and the frequent questioning of their administrator.

Eventually, the bylaw was given first and second reading, along with four others relating to the proposed sewer system. At times Monday's meeting felt like deja vu as council rehashed the recommendations it made regarding sewers while sitting as a committee of the whole Oct. 20.

Buying in questioned

In regards to properties buying into the specified area, Coun. Lorna Barry said she was getting tired of people questioning whether Day was leading council down the wrong path. She said the administrator has the right to and does check with the municipal solicitor when needed. "I don't think we were idiots when we hired Mr. Day. ... I have yet to find he has given us wrong advice," aid Barry, who was a member of Sooke's first council, which hired Day.

Day said Stephen brought forward his information about North Saanich at about 4:30 p.m. Monday, which is when the office closes for the day. Barry said this was unfair to council and staff and asked Coun. Stephen to bring forward his information in a more timely matter before.

Barry, Councillors John and Marcus Farmer and Mayor Janet Evans voted to give the bylaw first and second reading while Stephen and Coun. George OBriain raised their hands against it. Coun. Tom Morino was absent.

Stephen's example from North Saanich was regarding a situation where a property owner paid for a sewer system pipe to be run on an easement to his property and council decided to reimburse him $5,350. Day said himself and municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt were able to contact North Saanich late Monday and learned the situations of that municipality and Sooke were not comparable.

When contacted Tuesday morning North Saanich municipal engineer Jack Parry said, in his opinion, the case in his municipality was "irrelevant" to what Sooke was going through. He said, after a 15-minute explanation of the ins and outs of the specified area situation, that it boiled down to a feeling of fairness on behalf of council and not a legal issue. Parry said council felt that if it put the pipe to every other property so people could hook up, then this landowner shouldn't have had to pay for it. The engineer noted the cheque has yet to be written because various items are still being worked out.

During Monday's Sooke council meeting Stephen asked for the word "voluntary" to be removed from the bylaw concerning areas buying into the specified area. The councillor argued it certainly wasn't voluntary. "If you want the stuff, you have to pay," he said. "They have to pay."

Day later explained it could be seen as "voluntary" as if you want to be in you pay and if you don't want to be included, you don't pay. By that time, council had already gave the necessary readings to the bylaw. Coun. John Farmer, who had moved first reading of the bylaw, agreed to the change as he didn't "want to argue semantics." Stephen said that wasn't his intent either.

Discussion focuses on mandatory connection

Later in the meeting Stephen and OBriain once again made their views known on the issue of mandating connection to the system.

Stephen said he feels the unknown cost of hook-up could be a financial hardship to some people and others have recently paid for expensive systems that work just fine. "I think we are alienating council from a larger number of people in the community who can't afford it or don't want to hook it up," he said.

Each property owner in the specified area will pay a parcel tax of $495. This is also the rate for a single family equivalent and includes both capital and operating costs. Properties with "multiple uses" will be charged the parcel tax and a sewage generation charge. The generation charge is based on a table of multiples related to use. For example, a single family dwelling with one suite would pay based on a multiple of 1.7.

Stephen argues 60 per cent of the parcel tax is used for capital costs and he said if people opted not to hook-up they could pay $307. He feels the finances would work out because if they are not connected they are not causing an increase in operating cost.

But Evans disagreed. "The numbers don't work if we do that," she said., though she stated all of council is certainly sympathetic to the cost burden the system could possibly place on some people.

During Oct. 20's committee of the whole meeting, Day brought forward a report stating a number of reasons why he didn't recommend mandating connection. Among the reasons were the goal of eliminating sewage from ditches, that it would make revenue unpredictable, those connecting would be subsidizing those who didn't and those people voting in December wouldn't be assured of a cost before they vote.

Council gave the bylaw regarding mandatory connection first and second reading with Stephen and OBrian voting against it. OBriain said he feels the district hasn't fully explored all of the options available.

Before the vote on the issue, Stephen alleged this is the second initiative he has backed that council has ignored that he worries could affect the referendum. He said he wants to see sewers happen, though he is not promoting them. The first initiative Stephen was referring to was his desire for the district to investigate the option of tertiary treatment as opposed to secondary more fully.

But Marcus Farmer referred to not having enough information on tertiary treatment as smoke and mirrors. "There is no doubt in my mind that tertiary is more expensive and unnecessary."


Mandatory [sewer] connections recommended
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 22, 2003

Those people with property in the District of Sooke's sewer system specified area will be forced to connect if council ratifies the recommendation it made while sitting as a committee of the whole Monday night.

The committee agreed to mandate connection in a 4-3 vote with Mayor Janet Evans and councillors Lorna Barry, Marcus Farmer and John Farmer voting in favour. Councillors John Stephen, Tom Morino and George OBriain raised their hands against mandatory connection.
"I think we have to move ahead and do it," Coun. Lorna Barry said, to applause, of proceeding with the system in general.

But councillors Stephen and OBriain wondered if the system would be more appealing to the masses if people were not required to connect to it. The annual cost for the system is $495 for a single family equivalent, which most "average" homes would be. However, the connection cost varies from property to property.

"I'm sure that a lot of homeowners are just going to have to give up and go away and live in a townhouse in Langford," Stephen said.

Ten estimates compiled by Chew Excavating Ltd. for residential gravity service (no pump required) varied from $1,800 to $16,000 with six of the 10 being under $3,000. District staff has said options to bring down the cost of some of the more expensive estimates exist. Three estimates for homes needing pumps ranged from $2,350 to $5,300. All of the estimates included landscaping.

Morino wanted to know how many septic systems in the specified area were recently replaced or had been worked on as these people have recently paid to upgrade their systems. Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said staff didn't know how many that would be. Smirfitt and Sooke administrator Tom Day said a permit for the new systems would be needed and a list of those people could possibly be available from health officials.

But Day said, and the majority of council agreed, there are a variety of reasons why not requiring connection would not be the right decision. Among the reasons for connection is the project's goal of eliminating sewage from ditches in the winter and improving the quality of stormwater and groundwater entering the Sooke Harbour and Basin, Day said. Without connection polluting sources in the specified area would still exist.

Not mandating connection would also make revenue unpredictable and those in the specified area wouldn't be assured of the cost before they vote, according to the administrator. Also he said those who are connected would in effect subsidize those who opt not to hookup.

The administrator questioned how it would be enforced if council allowed people with "well-functioning" systems to not connect. He said a site inspection by a professional engineer on an annual basis would be required and this would be expensive. Also the system is designed for certain flows. If many people do not connect, Day said the quality of the effluent could be negatively affected.

Coun. Marcus Farmer also noted the idea of Sooke residents in the specified area having to connect to the system is not new and has long been attached to the project.

During the committee of the whole's half hour public question and comment period some concerns about the unknown costs of connection were voiced. Maple Avenue South resident Clive Kitchener was upset by remarks Evans made to a Victoria daily newspaper about how people can afford to hookup. She reportedly said residents have two years to come up with the money for connection, that financial institutions have options available for financing and some work, such as digging, can be done by the homeowners.

"It is that close to saying, 'Let them eat cake,'" Kitchener said.

Evans then informed the speaker, as she had others, his allotted two minutes were up. On his way back to his seat from the podium, Kitchener said: "If nothing, it's cavalier and arrogant."

Kitchener was also interested in who would pay and care for the pumps some houses will require because they are below the road. Day said the municipality has agreed to purchase pumps for all of the houses that need them. Once installed, at the owner's cost, the pumps will become the property of the homeowner. They will have to pay for the electricity needed to operate them as well as for the maintenance and replacement of the pumps. Smirfitt said from his experience, with care, the pumps last between 10 and 15 years.


Sooke steps ahead with sewer bylaws
Mayor pleased with cost reduction
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 22, 2003

Sooke mayor Janet Evans was quite pleased when the District of Sooke's single family equivalent rate was released last week.

The rate of $495 is $155 less than the estimate of $650, which has been batted around for the project for more than a year now. Sooke administrator Tom Day said at Monday's committee of the whole meeting the figure is a result of a great deal of time spent crunching number by staff, EPCOR representatives and consultants. The district was able to lower the number from the previous estimate primarily because of an increase in single family equivalents being served. This was accomplished partly through an expanded service area proposed by Sooke's preferred partner EPCOR Water Services Inc., who would design, build and operate the project if it proceeds. Ten private property owners also agreed to pay 100 per cent of the necessary costs for their parcels located outside of the proposed service area to be part of the system.

The amount paid annually covers both capital and operating. Day said Monday night the capital cost of the collection and treatment system will be $22,771,500.

It is determined by two costs: a parcel tax and a sewage generation charge. The parcel tax is the flat $495, which a single family home owner would pay. Property with "multiple uses" will be charged the parcel tax plus a sewage generation charge based on a table of multiples. For example a single family dwelling with one suite would pay based on a multiple of 1.7, so it would be $841.50. The charge for a high school is 6.0 per 100 students at the primary and elementary level.

During a half hour public question and comment period Monday night no members of the packed room's audience said that the $495 was too much.

As well as the annual costs people in the specified area will have to pay the cost to connect and those who require pumps would have to pay for the electricity needed to operate them, for their maintenance and the replacement costs.

Question wording recommended

Siting as a committee of the whole the Sooke mayor and councillors recommended, by a 5-2 vote, that council authorize the wording of the question for Dec. 13's slated referendum on the sewer project.

As proposed the question voters from the specified area would be reading on their ballots would be: "Are you in favour of the council of the District of Sooke adopting Bylaw No. 147, Sooke Core Sewer Specified Area Bylaw, 2003 authorizing the District of Sooke to construct and operate a community sewer system for the benefit of the specified area designated in the bylaw?"

Coun. John Stephen and Coun. George OBriain voted against the motion to recommend authorization. Stephen feels more information needs to be presented in the question. According to Stephen a Union Bay referendum for a similar project had just one question but three parts. The referendum Stephen was referring to included asking if they were in favour of the system, of borrowing the money and of the amount that needed to be paid back per year.

Evans suggested councillors bring their concerns about the question to Day's attention.

Public speaks

The council chambers were full Monday with every available chair being used and a handful of people standing near the doors. On which side of the sewer system the 17 people speaking stood was split almost right down the middle. Eight speakers appeared to be in strongly in favour of the sewer system, while seven were against. One person spoke but did not indicate whether they were in favour or not.

More land sought

At Monday's meeting the committee recommended council authorize allocating money from the 2004 budget from the general fund surplus to purchase an additional hectare of land at the sewer treatment plant site. The idea of purchasing another hectare next to the hectare the district already plans on buying is to allow for future expansion of the plant.

The surplus is anticipated to be about $3 million at the end of this year. Day wrote in his report because of the land acquisition negotiations the amount of money cannot be disclosed at this time.

Buying in questioned

The District of Sooke council allowed property owners outside of the proposed specified area to buy into the area by paying for 100 per cent of the necessary costs to increase the capacity of the sewage collection and treatment systems. Ten property owners took advantage of this and in total paid $2.5 million. These costs per owner ranged from $27,387 to $1.154 million.

During Monday's public question and comment period Gail Hall questioned if under the Local Government act Sooke had authority to do this. Stephen brought up the issue once again during the meeting.

Day, who had answered Hall's question, was visibly irked when it was raised again during the meeting. He explained advice had been sought from Sooke's municipal solicitor and the method is 100 per cent legal.


District: specified area is a start for sewers
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 15 2003

Sooke resident Lois Gardner said she's not against a community sewer system, but she wonders if the specified area it would serve accomplishes the District of Sooke's goal of improving the environment.

"I'm just wondering what gives them the logic and scientific basis to say it is going to clean up the harbour and basin," she said.

Gardner, who lives in the specified area, is concerned such areas as Whiffin Spit are not included in the specified area. She said with the slope there is likely leakage from septic systems and noted how close to water it is.

But Sooke mayor Janet Evans said the system has to start somewhere and doing nothing isn't an option.

"Phase one (the specified area) is a huge area," said Evans, who currently lives in the specified area. "Phase two can come in when development happens."

The specified area was approved unanimously at an Oct. 6 special council meeting. Coun. George OBriain was elected last November after expressing his concerns about the project. The councillor said last week he can understand the concerns of people like Gardner and Gail Hall, who also voiced her concerns about Whiffin Spit being left out to council. But OBriain said he felt it was the best plan at this time.

"At that point it becomes too big and costs too much," the councillor said of adding areas such as Whiffin Spit.

Sooke's mayor encourages people to find out whether they are in the sewer area or not. A map of the area is included in an advertisement in this week's News Mirror and copies are available at the district office and on-line at www.district.sooke.bc.ca. Those people who are unable to locate their property on the map can contact the district office at 642-1634. The mayor also encouraged residents to read the district's sewer bulletins, which are mailed out weekly and are reprinted in the News Mirror. Those living or owning property in the specified area head to the ballot box Dec. 13 to vote on the future of the proposed system.

If passed, only those in the specified area will pay for the system. The district is estimating an annual cost of no more than $650 per year for single family homeowners. This covers both operating and capital costs.

Property owners would have to pay the one-time cost of having their home connected to the system. This involved the burying of pipe on their property. This cost will vary from property to property.

As for Whiffin Spit not being included in the specified area, Evans said much of the development in that area is relatively new and thus, the septic systems still have life, compared to some of the older parts of Sooke.

Stan Eakin, who has two developments near Whiffin Spit, agrees. Though Eakin said he wholeheartedly supports the sewer project, he said he hasn't heard cries from his developments or the rest of the area about systems failing.

"Everybody seems to be very happy with the system they have here now."

But the developer said when sewers do come to his area he's quite prepared to pay his share.

Gardner said the public needs to understand and be assured council is doing what's best financially and environmentally for the community. She wants to comprehend the process the district is going through.

"We need to understand what they're doing," she said.

Evans said the specified area boundary is not just an arbitrary line and an extensive process was followed to create it. Tom Day, Sooke's administrator, said the original focus of the project proposed by the district's first council was to sewer the downtown core. He said the service area was expanded as Capital Regional District stormwater sampling showed high fecal coliform in the Broom Hill area.

Using a specified area including primarily the core and Broom Hill, Sooke applied for a Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant to cover about $16 million of the project's estimated $24 million price tag. The district was informed its request for cash was too steep. Instead of trying to revise the plan itself, Sooke sought out a private partner to come up with a suitable design, specified area and to lower the cost.

After an extensive process, the district tabbed Edmonton-based EPCOR Water Services Inc. as its preferred partner. The project now carries a price tag of about $17.8 million, of which $11.6 million is covered by the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure grant Sooke received last spring.

Lee Ward, project manager for EPCOR, said the rules of competition for Sooke's partnership was to serve at least 90 per cent of the core area. After that the companies could choose whatever areas they wanted to service. Ward said the companies had to serve the most single family equivalents (SFEs) for the low cost per SFE.

The EPCOR representative said this meant the system was designed to serve the areas with the highest density.

"You had to cut the boundary at the amount of money Sooke had to spend," Ward said.

The proposals were judged on the number of parcels that could be served at the deadline in 2002. This meant EPCOR chose not to include Sunriver Estates in its proposal because the development hadn't been approved yet and there was no benefit under the grading system of serving it.

However, the Phillips Road development as well as other property outside of the service area announced this summer had an opportunity to buy into the system this fall. The properties, such as Sunriver, that have bought in paid 100 per cent of the extra capital costs associated with servicing them, including the expansion of the capacity of the treatment plant and the collection system. These property owners have produced letters of credit totaling $2.5 million to be included in the specified area.

With these properties buying in the opportunity appeared for other areas, known as "in-fill," to be added without a huge cost increase as the pipe was being installed near them. For example, Rhodonite Drive was added because the Ponds housing development and the John Phillips Memorial Golf Club property bought in, according to Ward.

Some people have asked why Henlyn Drive was not included in the specified area as it is between two areas that are serviced. Ward said it was not feasible to serve the Henlyn area immediately because of the grade and the rock.

But Ward emphasized, as did Evans, this is the first sewer project's first phase.

"We are making sure the system is expandable," Ward said.

Sewer Vote: A referendum for those who reside in or own property in the Sooke sewer specified area will be held on Dec 13. Maps of the specified area can be downloaded from www.district.sooke.bc.ca found in this week’s News Mirror at the municipal hall.


Council opts to soldier on with secondary treatment
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 8, 2003

In a 4-3 vote Monday night Sooke council decided to proceed with secondary treatment as the preferred process for the community's proposed sewer system.

Coun. John Stephen tried to have the matter tabled until Oct. 20 so that tertiary treatment could be examined in more detail and a price quote could be obtained from a reputable company. Councillor’s Tom Morino and George OBriain agreed, but Mayor Janet Evans and councillors Lorna Barry, Marcus Farmer and John Farmer all voted against it to defeat the motion.

The quartet then voted in favour of proceeding with the long discussed secondary treatment with disinfection option. This meets all of the required standards and is cheaper, Evans said. All of the council members who voted for secondary treatment were members of Sooke's first council, which initiated the project.

"We have an environmentally sound project here that is financially viable for this community," Coun. Marcus Farmer said. "We have to proceed with this project."

But Stephen feels Sooke is passing up an opportunity to produce a possible showcase initiative.

"I think what we are doing here is dragging an archaic system into our midst and living with it," Stephen said shortly after his motion to table the issue was defeated.

Stephen said he has spoken to a company about the cost of tertiary treatment and told the audience it was about the same price as the secondary option council is pursuing. This appears to contradict a Sept. 29 presentation to council by Dave Forgie, a senior environmental engineer with Associated Engineering. Forgie's report shows the basic capital cost of secondary treatment being $4.7 million. He showed four add-on "tertiary" options that would bring an additional cost of $750,000 to $2 million each to the project.

Barry and John Farmer wondered why a company with affordable tertiary treatment did not step forward before. The district went through a request for proposal process during which it selected EPCOR Water Services Inc. and proposal of secondary treatment. Barry also said she has been told by EPCOR representatives the plant can be upgraded to tertiary in the future when it is affordable to do so.

The decision on the treatment process was made following a 40-minute public question and comment session during which three of the nine speakers asked council to consider tertiary treatment. OBriain said in response to what was said during the question and comment period, council should ask staff to look to see if grants were available.

But Evans wondered where the money would come from. Sooke received an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant for the $17.4 million project. She said both Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin and Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA Brian Kerr have told her the program is over-subscribed too and that the district was "damn lucky" to receive what it did. She also wondered why money would be available to move to tertiary treatment when secondary meets all of the government standards.

During the meeting's second question and comment period Glenn Dickie, who lives in the sewer project's specified area, said he appreciated Morino, OBriain an Stephen for their commitment to the community. However, Morino said he appreciated Dickie's words but emphasized he feels all members of council are trying to work together for what is best for the community.

In secondary treatment, 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.

Sewer vote coming. The referendum on the proposed community sewer system will be held December 13th. Only residents of and eligible property owners in the specified service area will be eligible to vote.


Ten property owners buy into sewer system
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 8, 2003

Mayor Janet Evans is pleased with the way private property owners outside of the specified area have stepped forward to be part of Sooke's sewer system.

Ten owners of private land have given the District of Sooke letters of credit for the calculated costs to increase the capacity of the sewer collection and treatment system to allow them to connect if sewers become a reality. The deadline for doing this was last Wednesday. These property owners must cover 100 per cent of these costs (ranging from $27,387 to $1.154 million) and pay for any development costs on their land. The land will be subject to the same taxes and fees associated with the system as other property owners as they are now part of the specified area.

In order to develop many of the properties that have bought in, rezoning is needed. But Evans said the landowners buying into the system are not guaranteed rezoning as that is the decision of the council of the day. The district made this clear in a letter it sent to all who were interested in buying into the project.

Sooke administrator Tom Day said these property owners buying in will reduce the cost, which has been estimated at no more than $650 a year, for others on the system. Lee Ward of EPCOR Water Services Inc., the Sooke project manager, was more cautious when asked about the subject but said he is hopeful this will occur.

Ward was pleased with what he felt was the support of the development community for the project.

Sunriver Estates on Phillips Road has put up a $1.54 million letter of credit to buy into the project, according to development representative Norm Eden.

"We just believe it's a good thing to do," said Eden, who noted Sunriver is in full support of a community sewer system. "There are so many benefits. ... We think it's a good thing to do for all of Sooke."

Specified area set

At a special council meeting Monday night, Sooke's governing body approved the specified area boundary for the sewer system. A map of the boundary is included in a district advertisement on page 7.

While council unanimously approved the boundary, audience members Gail Hall and Lois Gardner questioned why Whiffin Spit was not included if improving the environment is one of the system's aims. An answer wasn't given.

Also at the meeting council, approved a public information process for the system that includes the mailing of weekly bulletins until Nov. 24, newspaper advertising and open houses Nov. 3 and 4.

Boundary restructure meetings set

On the subject of the District of Sooke possibly extending its boundaries to include East Sooke, Shirley and Otter Point the boundary restructure committee meeting will be holding information meetings in the outlying areas. At each site a 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. open house will be held with consultant Tom Reid making a presentation at 7 p.m. This is an opportunity for residents to gather information and to ask questions about the subject.

The meetings will be held Nov. 5 at the Otter Point firehall, Nov. 12 at the Shirley Community Hall and Nov. 18 at the East Sooke Community Hall.


Otter Point Resident [Ken Pugente] willing to dig into pockets for better [sewage] treatment for Sooke
by Robin Wark Sooke News Mirror October 1, 2003

At least one Otter Point resident is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the District of Sooke's proposed sewer project.

Ken Pungente told Sooke council, sitting as a committee of the whole Monday night, he is willing to ante up to help the district move from secondary to tertiary treatment. Pungente feels the proposed treatment plant and the effluent that would be sent into the Strait of Juan de Fuca affects him and his community because he lives in front of it.

However, according to an analysis of wastewater treatment need and options presented to council Monday, stepping up the level of treatment might not have a big impact on the environment, though it would come with an increased cost.

Estimate costs going beyond secondary treatment

Option

Capital Cost

Secondary

$ 4.7 million

Filtration add-on

$ 750,000

BNR addition*

$ 2 million

MBR addition*

$ 2 million

Filtration and activated carbon

$ 1.2 million

*BNR is 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.


Survey: more than two-thirds support sewers
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 1, 2003

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.


Businesses deserve vote
Sooke Mirror October 1, 2003

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.


Those paying most can’t vote
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror September 24, 2003

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.


Sooke Council interested in various items at UBCM
By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror September 24, 2003

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."

Trip, treatment discussion coming

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.

Answers are coming

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.

District hold off on hiring

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.


Mayor pleased with [sewer] connection estimates
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror September 17, 2003

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

Length (m)

Features affecting price

Price

Gravity Service

10

2 m deep, shrubs

$1,800

10

1.2 m deep, sod, trench rock

$2,460

20

1.5 m deep, sod

$2,750

20

1 m deep, sod

$2,600

25

1.5 m deep, sod

$2,900

25

1.2 m deep, topsoil, seed

$2,350

30

1.5 m deep, steep bank, fence, trench rock

$5,400

30

1 m deep, retaining wall, concrete driveway

$4,800

30

1.5 m deep, sod

$4,100

55

1.2 m deep, four retaining walls, fence, rock

$16,000

Pumped Service

30

1.0 m deep, garden, deck, topsoil

$3,300

30

1.0 m deep, sod

$2,350

50

1.0 m deep, topsoil and seed, gardens

$5,300

Commercial

40

1.0 m deep, asphalt

$4,800


Sewer process needs to move along to a vote
Editorial in Sooke News Mirror September 10, 2003

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answers coming

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

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

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

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

Council likes Gardner's idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPSRRA still opposes ocean outfall

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

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

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

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

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


Survey [re sewers] says: Phones to be ringing soon
By Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror September 10, 2003

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:

  • "What do you consider to be the benefits of having a sewer system installed in Sooke?"
  • "And are there any downsides associated with installing a sewer system?"

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.

Sewer survey sample

The following are some sample sewer survey questions, taken from the package presented to Sooke council Monday night for its review:

  1. How informed to you feel you are about the issues related to the proposed sewer system?
  2. What is the maximum dollar amount hour household would be willing to pay for the one time hook-up or installation cost?
  3. If financing is available that will allow homeowners to pay for the initial hook-up costs over a number of years, would this increase your support for the sewer project?
  4. What is the best way for the district to make sure you are kept informed about the sewer system?

District phones for sewer system opinions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

District seeks liaisons

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

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

Council unanimously approved the idea.

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

Treatment discussed in relation to boundary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council received the letter without comment.


Editorial: Meetings held but survey could help sewer be a success

Sooke News Mirror August 13, 2003

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.


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

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

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

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

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

Information to be coming in fall

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

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

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

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

Meetings get heated

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

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

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

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

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


[Sooke] Residents ask for sewer system with more treatment and no ocean outfall

by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, July 16, 2003

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.


Sewage Sorrows

By Christianne Wilhelmson for Strait Talk, July 2003

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.


Council favours referendum for sewer system

by Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror July 8, 2003

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.


Sewage Outfall Referendum, Editorial, Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror July 8, 2003

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.


Residents pose countless questions about sewers

By Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror July 8, 2003

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 questions dominate all candidate’s forum last week

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, June 11, 2003

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.


Councillor Morino questions decisions validity

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, March 25, 2003

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 Band questions Outfall

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, March 25, 2003

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.


Council to hold special meeting Thursday, March 13, 2003 per Sooke News Mirror Article

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.


Keith Martin: War (and Sewage) weights heavily on resident’s minds (at meeting in Sooke)
By Shannon Moneo for the Sooke News Mirror, March 12, 2003

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.


Morino remains unconvinced of sewer plan

by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, November 26, 2003

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.


Sooke 2003 Budget [and Sewers]

Sooke News Mirror, February 19, 2003

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.


Meeting hijacked by sewer critics

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, February 12, 2003

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.


Sewer hook up costs will vary

By Shannon Moneo for The Sooke News Mirror, February 12, 2003

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.


2002 Articles

Ombudsman is a misnomer

Editorial, Sooke News Mirror, December 18, 2002

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.


Council Appointments Questioned

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, December 11, 2002

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.


Council Appointments draw attention

By Robin Wark for Sooke News Mirror, December 3, 2002

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

Council liaisons
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)


To Sewer or not to sewer

Citizens allege at non-advertised meeting council is deaf to their concerns

Joint installation of sewer, gas line predicted

Sewer system dominates Sooke Meeting

Candidates feel sewer is an issue

New development area(s) not part of proposed sewer service area.

District has good feelings about grant

Sewer System Cost Pared Down

EPCOR Selected as Partner for Sewer

District delays decision for sewer proposal partner

[Sooke] Council likely to pick sewer partner Monday [August 26, 2002]

Vying for sewage

Sewer Proposals Being Examined

Prospective Contractors Will Question Populace [About Sewers in Sooke]

Impromptu Group Urging Sewer Support Letters

400 Years of Raw Sewage Forces Fishing Ban

District still focused on bringing sewer to Sooke

Council takes road trip for knowledge [about sewer treatment plants], Sooke News Mirror March 6, 2002 by Robin Wark

Sooke scrambles to bring sewers to community

Editorial Sooke News Mirror February 20, 2002

Council learns that sewer grant application misses again, but still on table


2001 Articles

Where does that toxic stuff you put down the drain go - into the food chain

Council endorses boundary vote [and delays sewer consent]

Council makes right move in pulling back

Public to be given chance to object to Sooke sewer plan

Shellfish harvest banned due to contamination

Municipality in tough competition for sewer grant

Editorial in Sooke News Mirror, August 8, 2001.

Council unveils sewer costs

Sooke residential property taxes the third lowest in Capital Region

Sooke News Mirror Editorial, July 4 2001

Sewer-line break closes beach area

How are Sooke’s sewage system and the Capital Health Region/Milt Gibson Memorial Society’s senior complex alike?

Earthquake risk boosts estimate for sewer repair at Gyro Park

Please, no more [broken] policies and promises....
Sooke News Mirror Editorial, May 30 2001.

Sewage closes Gyro Park. Rupture in pipe repaired but cleanup, restoration to continue today.

T’Sou-ke may abandon green system in favour of Sooke sewers

Brave men drink treated sewer water

WRATH asks grant program administrator to deny Sooke’s sewer grant application

Most controversial sewer question expected to be answered in May

CMHC program may offer some relief for sewer hook-up

Esquimalt benefits from water saving upgrade

Sooke council considers 4.5 per cent tax increase

Sooke News Mirror Editorial April 11, 2001

$24 Million Dollar Plan for Sewers in Sooke

Editorial in the Sooke News Mirror March 28, 2001

Preliminary budget figures may see service cuts or tax increases

WRATH concerned about sewer figures

District expands area to be serviced by sewers

Proper vote needed for expanded sewer project in Sooke

Sewage System's Foes will Have to Petition District

Sooke Council Fast Tracks Sewer System Process to be First in Line for Infrastructure Grants

Fish deformities [caused by sewage outfalls] raise alarm over European Rivers

Sewage Outfall Favoured [by Sookes Sewer Study Commitee]

CRD Director Urges Colleagues to Halt Dumping of Raw Sewage [in Victoria]

Sooke Municipality begins campaign to sell sewage system

Let's Hope that Sooke Council has Done it's Homework


2000 Articles

Sooke Public Objects to an Outfall at the Public Open House on October 30, 2000

Is Sookes Sewage System a Need or a Want?


More articles to come. If you know of a relevant article, please contact WRATH and we will post it on this website.

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