Page 6 of 10
Last November council was following the footsteps of the
previous council who had decided to allow a public-private partnership for the
multi-million dollar upgrades and subsequent operation of the sewage treatment
plant. Seven months later, amid a flurry of rhetoric and veiled accusations,
the plans were scrapped.
The P3, at it became known at water-coolers around town, was
hardly a hot button issue during last November’s election; in fact, it was
hardly an issue at all. The previous council had made its decision in January
2005 with little reaction from the community and a little push from the
One year later everything had changed.
Segments of the community, due in no small measure to questions
and concerns raised by Wilhelm-Morden and Zeidler at the council table,
galvanized in opposition around the issue of the P3.
At the heart of the matter was a deep concern about privatizing
a public facility.
Council took stock and a step backwards. They put the issue to
the community, embarking on an Alternative Approval Process, or counter
petition, which required roughly 900 signatures from community members to take
the P3 issue to a referendum.
When 1,848 signatures came back, council decided to scrap the
P3 plans altogether.
The community response was enough to convince the majority of
council, even those members who still believed deep down that the P3 option was
the most cost effective and efficient way to go, to abandon the plans
It was a five to two vote, with Councillors Gordon McKeever and
Forsyth the only holdouts.
Over a leisurely lunch in the South Side Diner in Creekside,
McKeever says he can’t help but feel the community dropped the ball on the
issue, not council.
“It wasn’t until January 2006 that the community got mobilized
and raised such a fuss. The most frustrating part of the whole process to me
was the amount of money wasted in that year.”
Staff estimates put the cost of investigating the P3, including
legal fees and consultant fees, at $1.3 million.
“I don’t mind the outcome,” explains McKeever, “but I deeply
resent the process to get there.”
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