Citizen’s group opposd long-term sewer deal

Citizens for Fair Sewer Services for Sooke organize

Gail Hall

About 80 people came together at the Sooke Community Hall on May 30 to listen to what a group of concerned citizens had to say about the proposed 21-year sewer franchise agreement between EPCOR and the District of Sooke.

The meeting was organized by Wendal Milne, Herb Haldane, Rick Kasper and Gail Hall.

At the beginning of the meeting Wendal Milne, candidate for mayor in the November election, stated that the group was formed because they were “concerned with the process embarked on by the District of Sooke.”

Issues of concern included: a fair deal with the best bang for the buck; a cost of more than $21 million of taxpayers money over 21 years; no consideration of other options; no tendering process; and concern of the operating costs of the system, which are almost double from the 2006 projected costs for 2011.

In 2004 the contract was a competitive process.

In 2004, Sooke taxpayers rejected a similar 21-year deal.

It was stated that the City of Edmonton, who owns EPCOR, rejected long-term deals with EPCOR three times. The City of Edmonton also rejected a proposal by EPCOR to take over the city’s drainage and sewer systems (valued at $7.8 billion) in 2005, citing concerns related to the divesting of public assets. EPCOR is a corporation operating as a private company. In 2006 EPCOR Utilities, Inc. reported earnings of $569 million in the first six months of 2006.

Former councillor Rick Kasper said in 2006 all councillors received information on the five-year agreement with EPCOR and those included Ron Dumont, Sheila Beech and Mayor Janet Evans.

“Those elected in 2008 did not receive a copy of the 2006 document, they made decisions in complete isolation,” said Kasper. “If they had the background information, we wouldn’t be having this meeting tonight. I’m not satisfied that is why I crawled out of the woodwork.”

Councillor Herb Haldane stated that there are “irregularities in the 21-year agreement.”

He mentioned that fact that a private company (EPCOR) was coming in and putting up money for infrastructure, but a problem arises due to the fact that the district owns the assets, the plant, the pipes, etc.

Haldane said that the lawyer who drafted up a manual on exclusive rights agreements stated, “do not go into process without a Request for Proposal (RFP) and a consultant.” He is the same lawyer used by the district to draw up the 21-year agreement.

“We’re doomed to fail,” said Haldane. “EPCOR is a fantastic company, but we don’t know if we are getting the best deal.”

He said a public/private partnership is set up so both parties win but he said EPCOR is the only winner if there is an 87 per cent cost increase.

Ellen Lewers stated that if the district were to opt out of the agreement after five years the taxpayers would be liable for the existing deficit, $500,000 for the concession fee; and $924,752 (2011 figure) to EPCOR after 12 months notice; plus any capital project costs.

Ted Davies spoke about the cost of setting up an in-house operation and what that figure might be.

Don Brown spoke of localization and keeping the profits in Sooke.

Councillor Bev Berger said that her biggest reason for voting against the 21-year agreement was that the district did not entertain any other option than the one put forward.

Bylaw No. 494, Wastewater Franchise Agreement Approval Bylaw, 2011 will allow the district to borrow money from EPCOR for capital projects.

“It gives them a blank cheque for borrowing,” said Milne.

Others spoke of the Alternate Approval Process and the possibility of the issue going to referendum if the AAP gives the nod to backing away from the 21-year deal.

Lorne Christensen said that EPCOR was a well run company which made over $170 million in profit last year.

“They have the best brains to negotiate the very best deal for themselves, who the hell negotiated for us?” he asked.

He and others felt that any profit made by the district, if the operation was localized could be invested for the future of Sooke.

The group has been knocking on doors and getting those who do not agree with the 21-year franchise agreement to sign the AAP forms. They hope to acquire 2,000 signatures.

editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Just Posted

Island Health, service providers meeting to talk about used needles in Victoria

Recent public needle-prick incidents prompt call to reduce number of needles found

Announcement for Sooke Road improvement expected this week

Premier promising ‘preliminary’ work, with more on the way

Dozens rally outside Premier’s office for sick Sooke boy

Six-year-old Landen Lanthier needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Sooke’s Most Wanted

The following individuals are wanted by the Sooke RCMP as of Jan.… Continue reading

Victoria airport reaches nearly two million passengers in 2017

This year expected to see additional growth

Community rallies behind Sooke boy with rare condition

Dozens called on government to cover cost of drug for six-year-old Landen Alexa

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

Wanted by Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers for the week of Jan. 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

LETTERS: More roads? More Cars? No thanks.

Climate change is real. Ecological destruction is real. Who out there who… Continue reading

LETTERS: Sooke roads not racetracks

What can we as a community do about the blatant law breakers… Continue reading

Most Read