Without the usual dodging and weaving, homespun homilies and flowery verbiage that usually chew up the first couple of hundred words of this column, lets instead just pull on our hip waders, pinch our noses and jump right into this stinky business of how Whistler goes about expanding its wastewater treatment plant.
The choice comes down to this. Behind door number one is The Devil We Know. Behind door number two is The Devil We Dont Know.
The Devil We Know is a traditional approach and the one Whistlers followed in the past. Under that approach, the Muni, in conjunction with engineers who build such things, would design the parameters of the wastewater treatment plant expansion. Companies would bid on the contract, the winner would build the thing and the Muni would own, staff and operate it.
The Devil We Dont Know approach is the one currently clogging the plumbing at muni hall. It is the Design, Build, Operate (DBO) approach where the facilitys design, construction and operation are held by a private sector, for-profit business. The Munis laid out the general parameters but in this case has paid four bidding companies $100,000 each to work up their bids which we wont see until sometime later this summer. The Muni will still own the resulting facility and will still hang on to the ultimate risk of its operation should untreated sewage start spilling into the Cheakamus.
There are a couple of things worth noting at this point. If you hear much of anything about this project youll certainly hear how much money delaying it is costing us. According to Councillor Ralph, every month we dither is costing us $100,000 in construction escalation costs.
Thats interesting. But the fact is, this albatross has been hanging around for a couple of years now. Over two years ago, the Muni was well on its way to going with the Devil We Know and getting on with it. Had the council of the day simply done that, the expansion would just about be completed by now and we wouldnt be talking about it still.
But about the time Dayton & Knight the Devil We Know, consulting engineers who are responsible for the existing plant and the infrastructure supporting its expansion were delivering their 2003 pre-design report, the agent for the Devil We Dont Know butted in. The DWDKs agent is Partnerships BC (PBC), Gordon "Rear-Entry" Campbells tool of privatization.
"Pssst," PBC whispered. "Have we got a deal for you." PBC wanted the Muni to consider going the DBO route. Its a tenet of Rear-Entrys conservative, ideological dogma that private is better than public, which, coincidentally explains his heavy-handed move on IPPs recently. (And I apologize for all the initials; its unavoidable when youre dealing with things governmental.)