Restoring the faith of residents in the Capital Regional District is paramount this year, says Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.
“There are a lot of issues that face the CRD, two of the pressing ones are sewage treatment and kitchen scrap composting. I hope to see some progress on both of those in the coming year,” said Jensen, who was elected chair of the CRD board last week. “One of the overarching matters I hope to deal with is the trust in the CRD. That has suffered as a result of some of the issues and I hope to restore that.”
Part of that process, he feels, is reminding people of the successes in the CRD.
“If you step back and look at the accomplishments over the years and put it in context, I think it does reassure people in most areas the CRD has done an excellent job,” he said.
The CRD parks program that boasts 30 parks hosting more than six million visitors a year is the “envy of other districts.”
The region features “leading-edge water treatment” with capacity to withstand back-to-back droughts and a long-term water supply on the horizon with the acquisition, and restoration, of another watershed adjacent to the existing Sooke watershed.
Finally, Hartland Landfill is a success in his own right, he says.
“We’re one of few in Canada to capture the gases that result from landfilling. Secondly, our very significant recycling program means virtually anything you have can be recycled at the Hartland landfill site,” he said. “By creating these recycling programs we’ve managed to divert nearly 50 per cent of our waste from the landfill. That’s a great success that the CRD has had.”
In the next one-year term as leader of the board, he expects they’ll find a solution to the kitchen scraps concern. They have 15 expressions of interest within or close to the region.
“Early in the new year we expect to select three or four to go to the next stage, request for proposal,” he said. After that they’ll select the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable processor.
Sewage treatment being the second hurdle, could take longer than the one-year tenure.
“It’s really up to the board who we move forward but we’re heading down two tracks,” Jensen said. “One, the board in 2014 reached out to communities and First Nations to see if there was another potential location for a single plant. At the same time … to ensure we don’t run out of time and miss out on the grants, we’re exploring the possibility of an east side and a west side solution.
The west group has formed, and Jensen says he’s already met with the new mayors in Victoria, Lisa Helps, and Saanich, Richard Atwell, to discuss the prospect of developing an east side. “We’re certainly keen to co-operate among the three communities,” he said.
That kind of communication with partner municipalities and electoral areas will also be a key to restoring confidence, he added.
“I think it has been going very well. We have a website that contains a significant amount of information for people who are interested,” Jensen said. “I’m certainly going to make an effort with senior management to reach out to the municipalities and ensure that they’re fully apprised of what’s going on and deal with any questions or concerns they have on any or all of our issues. This is a partnership between the region and the 13 municipalities and three electoral areas.
“It’s important for the people who gather around the table to first and foremost wear their CRD hat. Shared services are done for the greater community and we provide over 200 of these services.”