Colwood concerned over regional sewage payment scheme

Greater Victoria municipalities forced to guess on future usage needs

Colwood is meeting Wednesday night (July 11) to discuss a sewage treatment agreement that could end up costing the city $1.84 million per year for something that won’t be needed for years to come.

The Capital Regional District is getting closer to building a sewer treatment plant in Esquimalt with a limited capacity.

Each municipality in the region is being asked to buy into the plant and to commit to using a specific portion of the capacity for 20 years, essentially reserving capacity not yet being used and paying for the sewage of tomorrow, today.

“The (net) cost of building that has to be divided up amongst everybody in accordance with how much they asked for,” said Michael Baxter, Colwood’s director of engineering.

“So if we ask for a tenth for it, we pay a tenth of the price. If we ask for a fifth of it, we pay a fifth of the price.”

The problem Colwood has is its projected rate of growth. While other communities require a level of sewage services that likely won’t change much in 20 years, Colwood is expecting to grow exponentially.

But it must buy in now for its anticipated needs over the next 20 years.

Colwood could therefore be facing an immediate cost of $1.84 million per year, mostly for sewage that the community would not yet be using, at least initially.

Baxter said that there are two ways to charge that extra cost: either as a fee on those already connected to sewers, which would cost all sewer users around $1,000 a year extra, or to charge all taxpayers, which could potentially increase property taxes by about $215 on average.

“Twenty bucks would be something that they would probably still object to if they’re not using the service,” Baxter said.

“That would give them the ability to connect one day, but when, if the sewer doesn’t come anywhere near their house?”

The province and federal government have agreed to support the project, but the details still have to be revealed by each. CRD chair Geoff Young said that he understands some municipalities might not find the situation ideal, but that the regional district will work with them to try and come up with the best solution.

“When you can foresee that there will be new population it’s crazy to build the plant exactly to the size you need today,” said Young. “The one thing I can say for sure is that we will not have a perfect cost allocation system.”

Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell said her municipality has no concerns with the process and understands that taxpayers will have to front the money in someway in order to bring sewage treatment up to standards and to ensure sewage for future developments.

How that cost will be portioned out in Langford has yet to be determined.

“We have to meet those targets right? We have to do it and we have to pay for it,” Blackwell said. “There’s no better time to do it.”

Colwood council needs to make the final decision on the way to move forward.

This process will being at the Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. in city hall (3300 Wishart Road).

Anyone from the public who wants to voice an opinion or idea on the issue is asked to attend.

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