Where did the funds come from for sewers?
The current council in North Saanich says they don’t know, and okayed hiring of a consultant to find out more.
“It’s just basically good business practice … You go through, see what went well and what you can learn from,” said councillor Peter Chandler who has been seeking an external review since his last term on council. The Deep Cove, Patricia Bay, McDonald Park sewer project was completed in 2007.
Council has had questions, Chandler said, on how to reimburse municipal coffers as revenues come in from people connecting to the sewers.
“The cost of this I don’t think is expensive, certainly not compared to the overruns in the project,” Chandler said.
Council agreed to a proposal to have Opus International Consultants to review the project at a cost not to exceed $32,816. Last year’s budget included $30,000 set aside for just such a review.
“It’s extremely important to the district to have a clear view of how this project played out and how the overruns occurred,” said Mayor Alice Finall.
Councillor Craig Mearns disagreed, saying he felt the overages in the project were attributable to the extra costs associated with First Nations repatriation of graves.
“We don’t know how all of the costs rose and why they rose so rapidly and to that extent,” Finall said. “This project has never been audited, it’s never been reviewed and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
“That’s terrifying to me, to hear that we don’t know where the money came from,” said recently-elected councillor Dunstan Browne.
“We really don’t know where the money came from to fund some of the sewer project,” said councillor Ruby Commandeur. “The sewer project was a user-pay project.” She continued to say that there’s “no clear understanding” that it wasn’t funded by general taxes, and it’s important to find out where it “went off the rails.”
“It’s placed us financially in a tight situation,” Commandeur added.
Both Mearns and Browne questioned why municipal auditors wouldn’t have the answers. Director of Financial Services Patricia Roberts explained that the financial statements would cover the overall project.
“Auditors do not look at (it) on a project basis,” she said. “They look at whether it’s a fair representation of what was spent and what was collected.”
The objectives in the terms of reference for the review of the Deep Cove, Patricia Bay, McDonald Park sewer project include: Assess the adequacy of the decision making process used to justify the decision to undertake the project (e.g. business case, options analysis and cost estimates); identify and analyze the effectiveness of internal control procedures in place to effectively manage, fund and control costs of the project including compliance with the Community Charter and contract and related grant administration from project initiation to completion and; to identify areas for improvement.
Council made the decision during a committee meeting which requires ratification by council.