Sechelt Mayor John Hen-derson spoke with Coast Reporter this week to address some of the public concerns being raised about the new sewage treatment plant destined for downtown Sechelt on Ebbtide Street.
The new state-of-the-art $22.4 million sewage treatment plant, that will be the first of its kind in North America, was unveiled to the community at a special meeting Feb. 5.
The District of Sechelt, since that announcement, has heard concerns about money that will need to be borrowed for the project, lack of local involvement in the decision-making process and the building of the new plant, guarantees the company will fix any problems that arise and exactly how the greenhouse and sewage treatment process will function. There were also concerns raised about where the public works department, currently located at the Ebbtide property, would be re-located.
While Henderson said he was no expert in the sewage treatment process, he noted the experts would be on hand to explain the entire process at a March 19 open house, which will be held at the Seaside Centre from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
An open house can't be scheduled sooner because the deal has not been finalized.
"We continue the negotiations, we continue to work on all the details," Henderson said. "It's a hugely complex project and the short answer is I expect we'll reach an agreement and sign a contract in early March."
He said the financial numbers could change during the final negotiations with the Maple Reinders consortium, which includes Urban Systems and Veolia Water.
"We haven't signed anything so maybe we can get them to give it to us for less," he said.
While the District may be able to get the new plant for less, they want to borrow more to avoid using surplus funds for the $22.4 million project, Henderson said.
Council authorized borrowing $2.5 million for the project at their council meeting Feb. 20, but the mayor said that's a back-up plan.
"If and when we sign the contract they want to know that we've got the money to pay for it, so what we've done is [interim chief financial officer] Tim Anderson and staff and council have all looked at what we would call the worst-case scenario - if we couldn't borrow money like $5,6,7 million or whatever. If we couldn't then where are we going to get the money? We'd get it from borrowing the $2.5 million and we would draw on again some of our surpluses for another $2.5 million."
The remainder of the money would come from grants, sewer reserves and the Sechelt Indian Band.
Henderson said the interest on borrowing money right now is "very favourable."
"If you're buying something for the future you generally look to paying for it over the future, so to me, there's a real value to future users of this facility to be paying for it through their existing sewer taxes," he said.
As far as whether locals had enough input into the new plant council has decided on, Henderson said yes.
"The process of getting here has taken probably more than 10 years. There's been a lot of discussion about a lot of different components and you reach a time when you've got to move forward," Henderson said. "We all rely on other people to make decisions in our best interests. We go to the doctor and we rely that this is what the doctor says to take for whatever's bugging you. In this case, we have professionals that know what they're talking about."
He said Maple Reinders has stated the project will inject about $10 million into the local economy and that a $10 million performance bond will be held by the District in case anything goes wrong.
On the issue of moving public works from its current location, Henderson said the District is looking at relocating the department to Lot L on Dusty Road, a site purchased by the previous council for a new sewage treatment plant.
"We're going to probably do a two-step process," Henderson said. "We're going to very soon move [public works] to Lot L and then we're going to take some time to make sure we do things right. We may well combine parks and public works or there may be a better idea out there."
About $150,000 has been set aside for the immediate move that may see tents set up to house public works equipment and portables used for workers.
Henderson expects to have a permanent solution for public works before the fall.
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