Is McLoughlin sewage plant dead? Politicians all over the map

Esquimalt has spurned a sewage plant at McLoughlin Point, the provincial government has refused to overrule Esquimalt, and the Capital Regional District has rejected going directly to Esquimalt voters to get them to change their minds.

So is the sewage plant at McLoughlin Point officially dead?

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Maybe. Maybe not. It depends whom you ask.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins says the CRD should drop the site now that its directors have decided against sending a mail-out to her residents.

The flyer would have explained the CRD’s offer to cover Esquimalt’s share of the building costs in exchange for hosting the sewage plant at McLoughlin Point. Esquimalt would save $19 million or about $200 a year for 25 years for every household, the CRD said.

CRD directors, however, scrapped the plan on Wednesday. A number said they were uncomfortable bypassing Esquimalt council and going directly to voters. Others argued that the CRD had no authority to make the offer, and that it was unlikely to receive the required support of five of seven municipalities on the liquid waste management committee.

“I really feel that this should end this and we need to come together and move forward,” Desjardins said.

She suggested the liquid waste management committee pass a recommendation “that there will be no further pursuit of McLoughlin Point as a site.”

“We continue to prolong the agony in the region,” she said.

But Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who chairs the committee, said in an interview Thursday that the $19-million offer to Esquimalt is “still alive” even if the mail-out is dead.

He said Esquimalt residents and other councils might find McLoughlin Point and the offer more attractive once costs and locations of replacement sites become known.

He suggested that Desjardins likely wants the offer off the table because she faces re-election in November.

“I mean it just seems odd to me that you would be so certain that you know what is best for your citizens that you don’t even want the offer to exist,” he said.

“Maybe she doesn’t want to be running against somebody who’s going to be saying, ‘Gosh, the CRD has made a pretty good offer.’ Basically, somebody would be running saying, ‘I don’t know how much Barb’s proposed treatment plant is going to cost, but I know that the one I will advocate accepting from the CRD will be free.’ ”

Desjardins countered that Young is being divisive and misrepresenting the facts, since the CRD never had authority to make the $19-million offer.

“If they get the authority and they do make the offer, Esquimalt will go through the normal public process, which includes a public hearing,” she said. “And, absolutely, we will be looking to the public for their response to the latest offer. It’s about how you go about that process.”

Desjardins said her biggest concern was that the CRD planned to use the mail-out to make an unauthorized pitch to her residents. “They still don’t have the authority, so where are we now?”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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