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Sooke citizens recently sent a message to District of Sooke Council when they defeated the 21-year agreement with EPCOR. That message was for council to be more responsible in the use of their tax dollars by getting the best deal for Sooke, whether with EPCOR or another service provider.

 

It’s clear that council did not listen, because on Monday, July 11, they extended the contract with EPCOR for three months to September 30, giving them a massive raise for providing less service.

 

Here are the details:

 

EPCOR gets a whopping $18,000 per month increase in fees. From January to June 30, 2011, they received $57,000 per month and the new monthly rate is now $75,519. The District of Sooke’s justification for some of this increase is that EPCOR is providing enhanced development, growth and capital planning, and enhanced customer relations.

 

In fact, the new contract states that the district is now responsible for the customer relations service, and the development growth and capital planning service provided by EPCOR is no different than what they had already been providing.

 

In the previous contract, which ended June 30, EPCOR was required to provide a range of community relations, customer service and communications services.

These included: Sec 4.6 Customer Service, Sec 5.1 Full Communications Plan which included: identify stakeholder groups issues and concerns, increase level of knowledge in community regarding wastewater and inform customers regarding Operators role for operations and maintenance. Sec. 5.2 Communication Methods such as newsletters and mailings, website update, open houses, presentation to community groups, school programs, Community Sponsorships. The contract noted: “The costs of these services are included in the fee for Basic Services.”

 

In the new contract, the District of Sooke is now responsible for “community relations and all related two-way communications with customers, residents, business and stakeholders.” So, it appears the district is taking on the customer service and community relations duties that EPCOR had originally been responsible for providing. In addition, the communications services, which had been provided as a basic service, are now being called “enhanced services” to justify the massive fee increase.

 

The previous contract also required, as part of the Basic Work under Sec. 6.8, that EPCOR assist the district with growth and development planning including review of extensions to facilities, impact of development, review of the Official Community Plan, subdivision plans and development likely to impact the provision of sewer services.

 

So, EPCOR is now being paid extra for this work in spite of the fact that from 2007 to 2009 a full sewer service review and growth forecasting was done in conjunction with the recent Official Community Plan review.  Plus, they provided updated forecasting and capital projections for the defeated 21-year EPCOR deal. Why do they need to do it all again now at a much higher price?

 

This is exactly what Sooke citizens who submitted forms to defeat the 21-year contract were speaking out against. These kind of antics by council are a disgrace to our community and an insult to taxpayers.

 

My fear now is that the fee increase (your money) will be used to tell everyone how good EPCOR is and that they deserve a long term contract at any price.

 

Rick Kasper

Sooke

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