Strathcona Regional District director Jim Abram is forging ahead with a sewer system on Quadra Island that was shot down by residents in the spring.
Abram said the project, which would extend sewer service to 53 properties in Quathiaski Cove (near the ferry terminal), needs to go ahead.
“This has gone on for far too long,” Abram said at regional district Committee of the Whole meeting last week. “The expansion is the only thing that will save the sewer system.”
The project was prompted by several requests from Quadra property owners who have been dealing with ongoing septic failure. However, only 30 per cent of affected properties voted in favour of the project via a public petition process in May which required at least 50 per cent approval to go ahead.
At the time, the project was expected to cost each property owner an $18,400 one-time payment or a $1,400-$1,600 parcel tax for 20 years.
However, the $975,200 project could be subsidized with Gas Tax Funds to lower the price tag for home owners.
“Unlike the previous petition process, the use of Gas Tax Funds is being considered for any substantial extension of the sewer system,” said Russ Hotsenpiller, community services manager for the regional district, in a letter to regional district directors. “This will likely fundamentally lower the individual cost to the landowner to expand the system and may engender a positive response from the community. The petition process completed in May 2012 did not include a subsidy of this nature.”
But regional district director Ted Lewis, representing Zeballos, said he didn’t understand why the regional district is pushing something Quadra Islanders made clear they don’t want.
“If they don’t support it, they don’t support it,” Lewis said. “I’m really perplexed. The public isn’t supporting something and now we’re enticing people with Gas Tax rebates.”
Abram said the petition didn’t tell the whole story.
“Two people advertised heavily and lobbied against it because they own two large properties there,” he said. “And they were successful, it was defeated. They clearly didn’t understand that the more people that joined us, the lower the costs would be. If we had a referendum then we’d know what’s really going on.”
Abram said as it is, people are not happy with the high sewage system costs and the Quadra Sewer project needs to be a priority for the regional district.
“The last one, two or three projects we added (can) wait,” Abram said. “This was here first. We’re going to have a delegation of people here that are going to ream staff out, they already have to me…because of sewer charges and they’re not going to go down. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Hotsenpiller said further action will have to wait until 2013, as there’s no money left in the 2012 budget.
“The project as a whole can’t advance until a new budget cycle and money is added to it,” he said.
In the end, directors recommended that any further work plan or budget items associated with the project be directed towards the 2013 budget. That recommendation will need to go in front of the regional district board in order to be fully endorsed.
The regional district may still consider putting the project to a referendum; establishing individualized extensions to the sewer service area to include landowners close to the current sewer infrastructure; or concluding the project for the time being.