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October 12, 2010

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Delay in vote provides opportunity for public input, reconsideration says Powell River water watch coalition

POWELL RIVER—Last Thursday’s decision by Powell River City Council to postpone a vote on two proposed bylaws that would move the City closer to the privatizing wastewater services gives councillors time to open up the process to democratic input and thorough public consultation before any further action is taken, CUPE Local 798 President Graham Mahy said today.

“We are glad to hear Councillors Debbie Dee and Maggie Hathaway asking for time to review and discuss the bylaws,” said Mahy. “Reducing industrial taxes and privatizing our wastewater treatment system is a double whammy for residents. It will shift taxes to home owners at the same time as forcing them to pay more for a core municipal service. The public has a right to weigh in on the issue.”

“These bylaws are the beginning of a process that will lock our community into a 20-year contract with literally no public consultation,” said Mahy. “That’s just wrong, and all members of City Council should listen to what residents are trying to tell them. Keep this system public.”

Powell River City Council was set to vote on two proposed bylaws that would cap the property taxes collected from Catalyst Paper Company at $2.25 million until 2014. The proposed tax revitalization and permissive tax exemption bylaws are the first step in an Agreement in Principle (AIP) signed by the City and Catalyst in response to the company’s refusal to pay its 2009 assessed taxes. If completed, the AIP will lock the City into a 20-year contract to pay the company to treat municipal wastewater.

Ellen Gould, a member of the Powell River Water Watch Coalition, addressed the packed Council meeting last Thursday asking that the City respond to residents’ demands to hold a public forum on the issue. Councillors Debbie Dee and Maggie Hathaway said that the process should be transparent. To date, Powell River City Council has not held any formal public consultation on the AIP or the possibility of privatizing sewage treatment.

By law, the City must advertise the proposed bylaws for two consecutive weeks and allow sufficient opportunity for public comment. The City plans to hold a special council meeting next week to introduce the bylaws and pass the first three readings. Final decision on the bylaws must be made before October 31st.

CUPE Local 798 and the Powell River Water Watch Coalition are encouraging residents to write and call City Councillors to urge them to reconsider the City’s willingness to privatize wastewater treatment and to hold open public consultations on the Agreement in Principle.

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