Concerns abound over P3 process 

Community members ask for full cost accounting

The P3 for the sewage plant upgrades may be dead, but there are still several outstanding questions and concerns yet to be resolved.

Chief among those concerns is just how much it cost for Whistler to pursue a P3 option for the past two years.

Resident Van Powel wants that answer and will be pursuing staff and council for a reply.

"I think that when people talk about fiscal responsibility, this process lacked it all the way through so that’s why I think it’s important that the community knows exactly how much we spent on this," he said on Tuesday, after council’s decision to abandon the P3.

"I intend to pursue an accounting of the costs involved in this process."

He’s not alone. Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has been asking for a full cost accounting for several months, along with Whistler Water Watch, the grassroots organization which mobilized community members to register their concerns for the P3 option.

"Just because the decision has been not to go to P3 on the wastewater (treatment plant), I think we still need to know the costs because people will be amazed I think when they find out what this whole process costs, and it didn’t really accomplish anything in the end," said the Watch’s Pina Belperio.

At Monday’s council meeting, mayor Ken Melamed was asked if council would hire an independent investigator to look into the P3 process. The mayor said that is something council could consider.

Staff and council will be doing a post-mortem of the process.

The P3 began with a decision by the previous council in January 2005 and was supported by the current council early in 2006. Some have argued that the P3 process has delayed the much-needed multi-million upgrades by more than two years

"I think the lesson probably is never to underestimate our community’s desire to participate in the decision-making process," said the mayor.

"Probably what side-tracked this project was an assumption that council made that nobody was interested, that this was just a sewage treatment plant (and) what’s the big deal? We missed the whole debate… around privatization and corporations entering into the public sector. I think we misread or underestimated the amount of sentiment in the community. I was surprised by it. I think maybe even many members of Whistler Water Watch might have been surprised by the level of concern in the community."

Belperio and the Watch’s Stephen Vogler were both pleased with Monday’s decision and the work done by Whistler Water Watch.

The group, which represented young, old, rich and poor, reached across a broad cross-section of the community.

Belperio said they hope to continue to work as a citizens’ watchdog and perhaps prevent decisions such as the P3 from getting as far as it did in the face of so much public opposition.

When asked if someone should be held accountable for the P3 process, Powel said: "If this was a private sector company and they had spent millions of dollars on the process that delayed construction of a project, would the private sector look for someone to be held accountable? I think they would."

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