District suggests sewer financing options

Sicamous property owners seeking an extension to the November sewer connection deadline may receive some good and bad news

Council Gord Bushell

Sicamous property owners seeking an extension to the November sewer connection deadline may receive some good and bad news.

At its Wednesday meeting, council received two more letters from property owners asking for deadline extensions and both were denied.

Community planner Mike Marrs confirmed those who do not connect will still have to pay the annual flat rate paid by those without a water meter of $467.

“I think the only thing we  can do, legally, is charge them that $467 if they don’t connect,” commented Coun. Jeff Mallmes. “I think they send a letter in, we can send a letter back, which we can send to all of them, and say the deadline is Nov. 30, and you’re supposed to hook up by then, and if you don’t you’re going to pay this anyway. It’s not like they’re getting off scot free.”

After further discussion, council did agree to have staff draft letters, though not just to say requests had been denied. They will also provide information on how property owners can commit to connecting without immediately facing the full financial burden.

Coun. Malcolm Makayev noted hook-up fees can be spread over a three-year period. In addition, he said people can meet the Nov. 30 deadline by submitting an application, and still have six months after to complete the connection. Community planner Mike Marrs confirmed this, explaining it was an option staff was going to present to council.

“That permit is good for six months in the interim, so it would give an opportunity to at least make a commitment to doing it,” said Marrs.

This approach, Marrs explained, would also help local plumbers and subcontractors, who are currently overbooked working for those trying to meet the November connection deadline.

“I’m certain by the time we get into the spring, there will be some areas in the community where high water will be hitting again and we can deal with that… at staff level and actually grant them a three-month extension or something for the summer,” said Marrs. “At least we’d have the financial commitment and the necessary permit.”

Prior to discussing the letters, council received a presentation by Interior Health health officer Clare Audet, who discussed land-use planning, drinking water and onsite sewage. In her presentation, Audet explained how Sicamous is on an unconfined aquifer, and stressed how potential risks/contaminants to that water source can be better mitigated with a community sewer system.

“It is an education process, and some of the residents of Sicamous that I spoke to, they just neglected to even think about it this summer and now it has come the time, they say why do we have to hook up,” commented Coun. Gord Bushell. “Most of them don’t understand – the environment. That’s the reason we got the grant funding, it’s that we’re on a flood plain and we don’t want to saturate our groundwater with sewage.”

Bushell asked if further advertising could be done. Marrs, however, said plenty has been done already to inform people of the hookup date and the reasons for it.

“We’ve had a couple of our planning forums in which we talked about sewer connections and deadlines, and we’ve had three extensions and they’ve been all advertised. So, you know, pardon me, but there’s no excuse for not knowing that this is coming upon us, and I believe it’s critical to our environment getting it done as soon as possible,” said Marrs.