A Saanich councillor openly criticized officials in charge of the regional wastewater treatment project.
Coun. Judy Brownoff directed her comments at members of the project board overseeing the core area wastewater treatment project. They include project director David Clancy and deputy project director Elizabeth Scott.
Brownoff’s critique came after the board had announced that it would change the alignment of a pipeline carrying residual biosolids from the future wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt to Hartland Landfill in Saanich to save up to 50 trees along the east side of Grange Road.
Residents had opposed the initial alignment because it would have led to the loss of those trees. This possibility prompted an outburst of lobbying by area residents, which culminated in the submission of a 380-name petition by former MLA and Saanich councillor David Cubberley leading a delegation of residents.
During this period, residents also charged the project board with failure to consult residents, and Brownoff seemed to go a step further by suggesting that the project board acted against whatever input it had received.
Brownoff said she had told concerned Grange Road residents attending an open house in late November to contact the project board, only to hear from residents a week later that the work was going ahead.
“I must say I was shocked when residents got a hold of me the very next week that the project board had gone out, ribboned trees [and] spray-painted sidewalks, and that there really hadn’t been any follow up on the [feedback] cards,” she said.
Brownoff said she herself was a “little bit upset” because staff had specifically asked her to tell residents to fill out the feedback cards on the implied promise that the project board would listen to them.
“So you can understand the angst that happened in the community, because they just didn’t think that even afer filling in [feedback] cards letting the project board know their concerns, they would be listened to,” she said.
This prompted Brownoff to ask the delegation how the project board would handle future public engagement forums.
“I want some assurance that if you are going to use [feedback] cards, that the residents do get some follow-up from you, and you don’t automatically go out and start working,” she said.
Scott said the project board does listen to feedback.
“In this case, the timing was unfortunate,” she said. Pre-construction started soon after the feedback had arrived and the board “entirely” understands the concerns of residents, she said. “We will make efforts to make sure that sort of timing doesn’t happen again.”
Scott also confirmed the new pipeline alignment would save all of the trees on Grange Road, adding she does not anticipate similar situations along other sections of the pipeline in promising to work with the public.
Mayor Fred Haynes praised the board’s response in also thanking council and area residents including Cubberley for their respective efforts.
Looking at the larger picture, the public heard the $765-million project remains on budget and schedule. Under the terms of the project, it must be ready to meet provincial and federal treatment guidelines by Dec. 31, 2020.