Jay Teichroeb wants the public to know what they are voting for.
The city’s general manager of economic development and planning services is concerned that people are so busy debating the proposed $291 million Stave Lake water supply and treatment centre and whether a public-private partnership (P3) is a better option than a traditional design/build model, that they may not realize the possible repercussions of the Nov. 19 referendum.
He said people “are being left with the impression that there is another option.”
The city is proposing to enter a P3 deal that would see a private company design, build, partially fund and operate the new water treatment centre. The referendum asks for voter permission to borrow up to $230 million, on the condition that up to $61 million in federal funding is received, and enter into a contract up to 30 years in length.
“It’s important that the public understands what is in front of them. It is not an either/or question … The choice is the model proposed or nothing,” said Teichroeb.
That means the public either says yes to the P3 water supply or no. The traditional design/build is not one of the options. He said if people don’t understand this then “we have not served the community.”
Referendum questions are normally based on a yes or no vote, because of the need for a 50 per cent plus one majority in order to pass.
Teichroeb explained if you offer three or more choices on a referendum ballot, all of the options are “doomed to fail” because votes will be split and it would be likely none of the options could garner the 50 per cent margin.
“It’s not majority rules.”
He said the city is promoting the Stave Lake project because it is simply the best option.
“It is the best of 19 potential options we examined, and were closely analyzed by teams of engineers and financial experts.”
If the public says no to the P3 proposal, Teichroeb said the city would have to “limit new development” and “use water rates to create a financial motivation to conserve.”
The city currently has the capacity for 143 million litres of water a day, plus an extra 25 million from the Bevan Wells, but the wells can only be used until 2015.
“Some people have suggested drilling more wells, but the aquifer is not an infinite source of water … we can’t go back to it time and time again.”