Sooke, British Columbia
In 2004, the town of Sooke, B.C., needed a water collection system and wastewater treatment plant. Sooke Council looked to the private sector to help design, build, finance, and operate the new facilities.
It entered into an agreement with EPCOR Water (West) Inc., but as the first contract came to an end, local residents questioned whether the arrangement should be renewed.
Community opposes contract renewal
EPCOR wanted a 21-year renewal from Sooke Council, but community members expressed concerns about the cost and length of the contract. More than 20 per cent of Sooke residents signed a petition opposing the contract renewal and urged council to explore an in-house option. Despite clear opposition from the community, council signed a second five-year contract with EPCOR.
But when the second contract was set to expire in 2016, residents rallied again. This time their efforts resulted in a very different outcome: In March 2016, Sooke Council voted unanimously to bring operation of the wastewater treatment plant in house.
“We’re uncovering opportunities for savings on a regular basis. We are in line with what we projected,”
Huge cost savings projected
Sooke Council’s decision was based largely on a staff report that showed by eliminating the profit margin of service charges from EPCOR, the district could save $225,000 annually. ”Bringing the wastewater collection and treatment system operations and maintenance in house meets the District strategic plan goals of fiscal sustainability and excellence in management and governance,” said a press release from Sooke Council.
“We’re uncovering opportunities for savings on a regular basis. We are in line with what we projected,” said Teresa Sullivan, the district’s chief administrative officer. “Things have been going incredibly smoothly.”
Sooke Council projects that cost savings over a five-year period could total over $1.1 million. Council intends to use savings to pay for system improvements and projected growth.