Mayor backs off Fairfield sewage meeting

Richard Atwell says it’s a disservice to the community at large that the CRD has not shown taxpayers any technologies to date

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell will not present his views on deep-shaft sewage treatment technology to Victoria residents at the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association after a “political backlash” that he believes is unwarranted.

On June 6, Atwell approached the GGCA board to request a space in the Fairfield Community Centre for a presentation he has given numerous times, he said. But after a negative reaction from residents, and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, the FGCA denied the request in a “fast tracked” decision, which they tweeted on Thursday.

Atwell said he’ll hold off attempting to give the presentation for now.

“I have given this presentation in other communities (Vic West and Gordon Head) and was hoping to continue this tour and share it with residents of that area,” Atwell said. “It’s a huge political backlash for something that no one’s complained about to date.”

The last two presentations were Feb. 11 at the Vic West Community Centre and April 28 at the Gordon Head Residents’ Association AGM.

Both were prior to the province’s recent appointment of a sewage treatment project board that supersedes the CRD’s Core Area Wastewater Treatment Committee. Both were tasked with finding a solution to meet the federally mandated sewage treatment for the region.

Helps responded that while Atwell is free to do what he wants on his own time, the CRD directors should step out of the way in terms of sewage.

“I think that all CRD directors should follow the process that we all agreed to, which is to let the new project board do its work and bring us a business plan and solution.” Helps said. “They’re independent experts with large-scale infrastructure project experience.”

Of course, no one can stop Atwell or anyone from doing anything, Helps added.

“The Vic West event was well attended, that’s why this is so difficult,” Atwell said. “Now there’s a clampdown on information, which is not democratic. The project board works in secret, with CRD directors unable to attend meetings. Our relationship as elected officials is with the public.”

Atwell added it’s a disservice to the community at large that the CRD has not shown taxpayers any technologies to date, though technology is what informs site selection and informs directors on the costs.

“I haven’t done anything wrong, while it is causing consternation for veteran politicians in the region. We can’t afford another Johnson Street Bridge fiasco.”

reporter@saanichnews.com