I’m not a “couch potato” looking to throw stones at Langford’s sewer oversight committee. I simply want to bring to light aspects of this project that, for some strange reason, politicians in Langford and Greater Victoria don’t want to share or discuss with their citizens.
I have followed this project from its inception and it has become perfectly clear that it is, as the scientists say, not necessary. It is also a project our communities cannot afford. Some argue we’re getting free funding from the feds and the province. This is not free money, this is our money. They’re just simply returning it to the taxpayers.
Before I itemize key aspects of this project that will directly impact West Shore citizens, there’s a couple of significant points that will affect us all.
1) The Capital Regional District estimates this project will cost $1 billion or more. That is simply not true. First of all they have not included the annual maintenance costs of up to $2 million and most importantly the value of the dollars that will leave our community in payments to architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers (the Blue Bridge project is a perfect example).
One of the basic principles of economics is that $1 spent in a community can be worth up to $6. If I spend $1 at the grocery store, that $1 is likely to be re-circulated locally, thereby providing increased financial benefit to the community as a whole. If it leaves the community and say, goes overseas, it results in a significant drain on the community’s wealth and well- being. I would argue that most of the costs for this project will be leaving our communities. The math is straightforward and the financial impact will be crippling.
2) The size of the tax increase to be applied on citizens by municipalities partaking in this project will likely prevent approval of other significant capital works projects for years to come. For example, Victoria recently announced it will drain its reserves of approximately $30 million to pay for the construction of a new No. 1 fire hall on Yates Street. A project of this significance traditionally goes to referendum. Why not in this case?
I wonder how the City of Victoria and all the other municipalities plan to fund the growing billions of dollars in deferred maintenance liabilities they will be faced with over the coming years? Other pressing examples include the Crystal Pool recreation centre and Point Ellice (Bay Street) Bridge, not to mention the aging sewer, drain and water pipes.
3) Once we commit to this project, the financial drain will be in perpetuity. Remember, this sewerage treatment plant is only designed to last 25 years. After that we start all over again. It is clear that all levels of government are essentially broke and the taxpayers are getting squeezed on all fronts. Imagine the financial challenges we will be faced with without even considering having to deal with another round of this time and money waster 20 some years from now.
West Shore residents, please take the time to read the list of additional financial impacts this project will place at your front door.
1) The cost to obtain a sewer connection to your street property line will be approximately $10,000.
2) The cost to run the pipe from the street property line will be a minimum of $10,000 (includes digging the trench and laying the pipe, restoration to fences, driveway, landscaping etc. and de-commissioning the septic tank etc.). Owners whose residences are below street grade and have bedrock to contend with, or whose homes are some distance from the street, could be faced with costs exceeding $50,000.
3) Many streets in the core neighbourhoods are already in need of replacement. They are in such bad condition that the impact of the sewer project construction on these streets will necessitate the total repaving of the street surface at the immediate cost of millions of dollars. These secondary costs won’t be spread out over a repayment period of 25 years like the sewerage treatment plant(s), but will be immediately payable through an increase in taxes.
My suggestion to West Shore residents is to start planning for the financial tsunami that is sure to come to our community. Planning solutions that come to mind include bold savings plans, cashing in retirement savings, obtaining a line of credit, re-mortgaging one’s home or if all else fails, selling one’s home.
If none of the above work for you, all I can suggest is hide your wallet and head for the hills.
Ian Phillips is former engineering staffer with the City of Victoria. He lives in Langford.