For the past six years, EPCOR Water Services has been operating and maintaining the wastewater treatment plant in Sooke. Council was considering entering into a 21-year agreement with the company for their services but the electorate said “no.”
An Alternate Approval Process (AAP) had been initiated and 2,036 electors said they were opposed to the long term agreement.
“This is the democratic process at work” said Mayor Janet Evans, “We have heard from the public and council will now consider options for going forward for the operation of our wastewater system.”
There was a concerted campaign of door-to-door knocking where community members got the AAP into the hands of homeowners. Grassroots town hall meetings, letter writing, and advertising on the opposition side brought the issue to the fore front in the community. A Fair Sewer Services for Sooke committee comprised of mayor hopeful Wendal Milne, Rick Kasper, former MLA and District of Sooke councillor and current Councillor Herb Haldane spearheaded the drive for a ‘no’ vote. Joining in the campaign against the 21-year agreement was a group called Sooke Water Watch supported by CUPE 374.
The District of Sooke sent out information from its perspective outlining the benefits of having EPCOR continue operating and maintaining the plant. The electors were then left to make up their minds. The AAP needed 975 votes or 10 per cent of the eligible voters to pass.
Wendal Milne said the door-knocking resulted in a strong representation of the thoughts of about 40 per cent of the people of Sooke in regard to this 21-year deal.
He said comments were that the 21-year deal was too long; and the district failed to look at a competitive process.
“What bubbled over was a frustration with the current council and the perception that a lot was done in secret,” said Milne. “For some it was just the perception, right or wrong.”
He thinks the district should sign a one-year deal with EPCOR and then look at other options.
“All I want is the best deal for the citizens of Sooke,” Milne said.