How high is the pile? 

P3 opponents quiet on signature numbers

Neither side wants to admit how many signatures have been sent to the Resort Municipality of Whistler opposing a public-private partnership (P3) proposal for upgrading the local wastewater treatment plant.

Sara Jennings, a Whistler Water Watch organizer critical of the P3 option, says the grassroots organization is very confident the number of signatures needed to convince Whistler council to either scrap the P3 strategy or take the issue to referendum will be surpassed. But the 15-member group that has been knocking on doors the past few weeks prefers to remain mum on how many signatures have been gathered.

"We’re not giving out any numbers," Jennings said. "There is some concern amongst the group about people not wanting to sign if they think ‘oh well they don’t need my signature because they’re already so close.’"

If the P3 plan is to be re-evaluated 10 per cent of Whistler’s population, 892 eligible voters, must sign an elector response form stating they are opposed to a P3 DBO approach to upgrading the water treatment plant. The plant needs a $35 million upgrade and council’s reversal of a 2003 recommendation to upgrade the plant but for the municipality to continue to operate it has caused concern amongst some in the community. Although Whistler’s engineering department maintains a 12-year design, build and operate public-private partnership would be cost-efficient, the idea has come under fire from opponents as being expensive and could lead to inefficiencies and higher rates.

Responsible for gathering the downloadable elector response forms ( www.whistler.ca ), the municipality’s Shannon Story, also won’t say how many forms Whistler has received. But verifying names on the forms as Whistler residents has taken a bit of detective work, Story says.

"Obviously if I get 10 Tom Cruises I’m going to be a little suspicious," she said.

The corporate officer confirms the respondents as residents by checking names against the election list, telephone book, and against second-homeowner lists.

"I have to, in good faith, think the person lives here," she said.

The final tally will be submitted to council June 19.

Expenses such as legal fees, consultant, panel, adjudicator and auditor costs surrounding the P3 treatment plant proposal will be raised by councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morton for discussion at the next council meeting, May 29.

Whistler Water Watch will hold a public forum about the treatment plant/P3 issue on May 31, MY Millenium Place, 7:30 p.m.

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