District proceeds with Alternate Approval Process

Negotiations for the long–term wastewater franchise agreement are now complete. The District of Sooke undertook extensive and careful review of several options, conducted public consultation and sought an independent, third-party review of the utility financial model. With this information, the District of Sooke council proposes to move forward with EPCOR in a comprehensive franchise agreement for the long-term management of the utility.

This franchise agreement builds on the continued success of the partnership between the District of Sooke and EPCOR. In 2004, the district undertook an extensive tendering process and awarded the contract to EPCOR to design build, operate and maintain the system. EPCOR and their partners completed the project in 2005 on budget and six months ahead of schedule. The system was nationally recognized as a prime example of how municipalities and companies working together can tackle big environmental challenges while improving the community.

This state of the art infrastructure investment provides an example of responsible wastewater management well ahead of other communities in B.C. and it demonstrates an innovative model for utility management to communities across Canada.

Sooke’s modern wastewater collection and treatment system has proven to be a reliable, robust system with built-in design flexibility that has exceeded performance expectations. It has provided cleaner water in the Sooke Harbour and made possible the Ayre Manor seniors’ care facility. With the system in place, future amenities like a medical centre, laundromat facilities and additional affordable housing are possible.

Agreement highlights:

Ownership:

The wastewater collection and treatment system remains in public hands; owned by the taxpayers of Sooke and managed by EPCOR with oversight by the district. Public ownership means that the district will retain the ability to access government grant funding for future system needs.

Control:

The District will continue to set and collect parcel taxes and connection fees. The district will control when, where and if the system is upgraded or expanded and will have a choice of financing options.

Concession fee:

EPCOR is investing $500,000 in Sooke in the form of a concession fee to be used at the district’s discretion to support the needs of the community.

Stable rates:

The agreement provides the ability to manage rates over its full 21-year length. Under current forecasts, the district expects that parcel taxes will be inflated annually at a rate of approximately 1 per cent, half the rate of the current consumer Price Index (CPI).

Accountability:

Performance targets are established for water quality, safety and customer service and efficiency, with financial penalties if targets are not met.

Opt out clauses:

The district has the ability to opt out of the contract without cause with 12 months notice at any time after year five. If there is cause, such as a non-performance issue, the district could terminate the contract immediately without notice.

Public approval of the agreement is being sought through the Alternate Approval Process (AAP).

For further information on this agreement and the AAP, a public information session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 25, 2011 between 4 and 8 p.m. at the district council chambers, 2205 Otter Point Road.

Detailed information is available online at the District of Sooke website (www.sooke.ca).

Evan Parliament, CAO

District of Sooke