Metro Vancouver agrees to help North Shore with wastewater treatment plant cost

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has agreed to step in and share some of the costs facing North Shore municipalities, with the price of a beleaguered wastewater treatment plant careening out of control.

In March, it was revealed that estimated costs for the plant had increased from around $700 million to $3.86 billion.

The massive increase in cost was in part due to a switch in contractors, increased construction costs, and inflation.

North Shore residents were previously facing possible increases to their annual utility bills of $725 to cover the excess costs.

Under the new cost-sharing agreement, agreed to Friday, residents will now see an increase of $590 annually.

Residents living in areas serviced by the Vancouver sewerage area will see an increase of $150 annually, while those living in the Lulu Island and Fraser sewerage areas will see annual impacts of $80 and $90 respectively.

The agreement means North Shore municipalities will shoulder a 37 per cent share of the costs, while the remaining 63 per cent is distributed between the rest of the region.

It’s a decision that hasn’t left anybody happy, in any part of the region.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said in a statement that while he was appreciative of the contribution, he thought the municipality had made a reasonable case for more assistance.

District Coun. Catherine Pope was more blunt.

“I’m really disappointed by how this vote went at Metro. The majority voted against any kind of significant cost-sharing that would have helped the North Shore,” she told CityNews Friday.

Pope said she’s had difficult conversations with taxpayers in the municipality about the project.

“They’re not happy about this. The whole point of Metro is that it’s a regional body organization that allows us to cost-share in a fiscally responsible manner,” she explained.

“So that means municipalities like ours don’t get saddled with a huge financial burden.”

While there were certainly some grumblings from Metro Vancouver directors from outside the North Shore about their taxpayers taking on part of the burden, many agreed that they needed to step in to help.

“Obviously [there are] key concerns around taking care of your own constituents. I think when your neighbours are in trouble, you hope that you’ll rush in to help, and they are really in trouble,” Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung told her fellow directors.

Maple Ridge Mayor Dan Ruimy said while he didn’t want to support the cost-sharing agreement, he didn’t feel that he had a real choice given the age of the current treatment plant and the interconnected nature of the region.

“I think when I look at our region as a whole, we all benefit,” he said.

Ruimy joked that while he might not be using the washroom in North Vancouver — to which a North Shore board member replied that he” could if he wanted to” — he noted that sewage from the current plant goes directly into the ocean.

But he also said that there needs to be accountability for the skyrocketing costs of the project and measures to ensure this doesn’t happen on future projects.

Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal echoed those comments but told fellow board members that the recommendations on hand felt like plucking numbers out of thin air, and he wanted a more formulaic method to determine how much taxpayers across the region would be affected.

Board members had several dozen combinations to choose from, in $10 increments, to determine how much residents of each sewerage area would be on the hook for.

-With files from Hana Mae Nassar and John Ackermann

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today