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Colwood considers sewer payment options

Colwood’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is recommending council stick to its original capacity estimates for the city’s buy-in for the Capital Regional District’s proposed sewage treatment plant.

In July council passed a motion to ask for enough capacity to service 11,500 sewer users, approximately half what CRD originally recommended. This covers all current sewer users, plus the projected growth until 2020.

The discussion at the committee’s Monday. Nov. 5 meeting came from the publicly released results of a questionnaire handed out to Colwood residents earlier in the year.

The questionnaire asked what type of system homeowners were currently on, how much capacity they feel the city should request and how residents should have to pay for that capacity.

Like other growing communities, Colwood has to determine how much capacity it will need as the city grows. If the city buys in for future capacity then current residents will pay for that capacity before it is ever used. Whether all residents or only current sewer users chip in on costs is the main debate.

About 500 questionnaires were returned to the city, about 300 from residents currently connected to septic systems. City engineer Michael Baxter explained that septic users were underrepresented in the results, given that the vast majority of Colwood residents are on septic.

About 275 respondents replied they would like to see Colwood purchase 2.5 per cent capacity of the treatment plant, enough to serve Colwood’s current needs. Just over 150 people approved asking for 3.5 per cent, which is projected to serve Colwood’s needs until 2030.

“I think it was fairly overwhelming in terms of the number of people who said we should take as little as possible,” committee chair Judith Cullington said. “That’s consistent with direction council has already given.”

Just under 200 respondents said there should be a blended approach to how residents pay, meaning both sewer and septic users should ante up, but perhaps on a graded scale. About 160 said only current sewer users should be asked to pay.

Many residents attended the meeting and asked questions of committee members, staff and three CRD representatives.

Many residents expressed discomfort at being asked to pay for sewage treatment when they have no option to hook up to sewage and have no idea when that might be possible.

Coun. Cynthia Day, who does not sit on that committee but attended as a resident, agreed.

“We’re actually asking our taxpayers to pay for sewage treatment when we can’t actually afford to put the sewer line to their house,” Day said. “So they’re paying for treatment that they can’t afford to hook up to. Which I think is completely wrong.”

Baxter explained at this time it’s unknown when sewage will be available for particular neighbourhoods.

Committee member Gib Small argued everybody in Colwood should have to pay at least a portion of the cost, given the municipalities are being told they have to do this and that sewage treatment is a general upgrade for the entire community.

“Everybody pays school taxes because it’s for the betterment of the community,” Small said. “I think that’s one of the ways that we maybe need to look at this, is that paying for the future sewer use is for the betterment of the community.”

Ultimately the committee decided to recommend to council it stick to its original decision on capacity. It also recommended it publicize the report and give the public another opportunity to discuss it and bring back that information to the committee. Staff is also being asked to put together a report on the viability and numbers associated with each payment option.

 

Full questionnaire results, including comments, are available on the City of Colwood’s website (colwood.ca), in the agenda package for the Nov. 5 Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

 

 

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