Councillor to ask for all P3 costs 

RMOW poll shows community wants more information

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden wants municipal staff to tally up all of the associated costs of choosing a public-private partnership for the sewage plant upgrades.

She will be asking council to support her in this request at the next council meeting on Monday, May 29.

The councillor, who has been opposed to the P3 for the sewage plant upgrades, rhymed off a long list of associated costs as she gave council formal notice Monday that she will ask for their support for a cost accounting at the next meeting.

When asked Tuesday why she put the notice of motion forward, Wilhelm-Morden explained that reduced costs are one of the rationales behind council choosing the P3 route.

"One of the things the community is being asked to decide is whether it’s economically viable, whether we’re going to save money by going the design, build, operate (P3) route," she explained. "And in order to be able to determine whether we’re going to save money, all of the costs have to be made available."

Among the list of costs she would like included in a report from staff are:

• payment to Partnerships B.C., the provincial body mandated to investigate P3s;

• legal fees associated with drafting the Request For Qualifications, the Report For Proposals, and the Partnering Agreement;

• costs for the project team members to attend council meetings;

• legal fees associated with an opinion on international trade agreements;

• costs for the blue ribbon panel, which ultimately made recommendations to council for the P3;

• costs for Whistler’s procurement consultants;

• the fairness auditor;

• the conflict of interest adjudicator;

• the value for money auditor;

• payments to unsuccessful proponents at $100,000 each;

• public communications consultants;

• the AAP process including legal fees; and

• any other costs associated with the private operation of the plant for the next 12 years over and above what usually is incurred with the operation of the plant.

"Let’s see what this thing really costs," she added.

It will be up to the rest of council whether they will pursue the report or not.

Council’s decision to continue on with a P3 for the $35 million upgrades to the plant has sparked interest in the community. The P3 will see a private contractor design and build the upgrades and then operate the plant over a 12-year time period. The municipality will continue to own the plant.

A community poll, conducted by consultants for the municipality, shows 75 per cent of those polled wanted more information on the proposal. Many also said they would support a referendum.

Council instead has chosen to pursue the cheaper and faster route first – the Alternative Approval Process. That requires 10 per cent of the voters, or almost 900 voters, to sign a form by June 12.

Whistler Water Watch, which was founded to oppose the P3, has been actively collecting signatures from the community.

It is not clear how many signatures they have but hundreds, if not thousands, of community members have been approached on the issue.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler said there is a feeling in the community that if enough signatures are collected, it could kill the P3 altogether. At Monday’s council meeting he said it’s important to hear from everyone about the issue and one way to do that is to hold a referendum instead of quashing the deal through the AAP.

The municipality will not release the number of signed forms dropped off at the hall until after the closing date of the AAP, June 12.

Whistler Water Watch will not release how many signatures they have collected to date.

Sara Jennings, one of the coordinators of the group, said she had concerns that residents were not completing their forms correctly. Each resident must include their postal code as part of their residential address. It is not clear on the form that the postal code must be included.

Forms can be downloaded from the municipal website www.whistler.ca. Voters need both pages of the forms for their signature to count. Forms can also be filled out at Katmandu.

Whistler Water Watch will be holding a public forum with guest speakers and experts on P3s. It will take place on Wednesday, May 31 at MY Millennium Place at 7:30 p.m.

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