There are some foundation-building reasons for going to a long term sewer franchise agreement with EPCOR.
An example of this is the possibility of taking the sewer trunk line across the Sooke River.
Firstly, the cooperative partnership with the T’Sou’ke, that we can draw on in the expansion of the SSA (Sewer Specified Area) is significant.
A second factor is the potential for tremendous light industrial park opportunities, as per the OCP (and pending review of the Zoning Bylaw), in the Kaltasin Road and Edward Milne Road areas, as well as Butler Brothers’ property.
Thirdly, the environmental benefit of existing users and future generations of the streams, river, and coastline parks and beaches that form part of our regional marine ecosystem is important.
Fourthly, there will be a system of checks and balances for both parties over the lifetime of the long term agreement.
And finally, the restoration of land of existing drainage fields of homes, apartment buildings, and trailer parks, and the provision for planned residential expansion, would be an asset of this initiative.
A second example is that the proposed franchise agreement is an ideal opportunity for Sooke to fully regulate the pricing and capital expansion initiatives, while EPCOR as the proponent manages the sewer and wastewater treatment utility.
Firstly, Sooke will have the flexibility of borrowing from the Municipal Finance Authority at very competitive rates.
Secondly, the operations and maintenance costs will be reviewed every three years, with the necessary adjustments made to ensure revenues are aligned with expenditures. Our auditors examine the books of the District of Sooke annually.
Thirdly, it is important to remember that within the first five years, either EPCOR or DOS can exit from the agreement for ‘cause’ (eg. gross negligence, environmental violations). In the sixth and remaining years, with one year’s written notice and payment of a termination compensation fee equal to one year’s operations and maintenance costs, DOS can be in a position to opt out (and, if it so chooses, have DOS employees take over the full operation of the plant).
And finally, the franchise area in the proposed agreement is all of our community (not just the current SSA), and that is why all home owners or owners of land parcels not in the present SSA are eligible to take part in the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) if they so choose. Those residents who are in support, do not have to do anything. EPCOR will provide DOS with a $500,000 concession fee at the outset, and in addition, if the franchise agreement runs to 2032 as proposed, Sooke will have: no debt; $4,000,000 in reserves; $13,000,000 of capital expansion that has occurred to the system; and, with a 1 per cent Consumer Price Index annual adjustment, the parcel tax (one rate, wherever your home or property is) of the present $510 will be $625 at the end of Year 21.
For the aforementioned reasons, I am supporting a 21-year Sewer Franchise Agreement with our existing provider and contractor, EPCOR.
David Bennett, Councillor