Regina sewage vote, campaign could cost taxpayers $900K

Regina taxpayers could be on the hook for close to $900,000 when all of the costs of the sewage plant referendum are in.

Regina taxpayers could be on the hook for about $900,000 when all of the costs of the sewage plant referendum are in.

Holding a fall referendum on a multimillion-dollar sewage plant upgrade is expected to cost up to $550,000, after members of city council voted Wednesday to select the most expensive of three options.

The city will also roll out a public information plan about how, when and where people can vote — including print, radio and social media — that will cost $100,000 to $120,000, which will be included in that sum.

Finally, the city is planning to spend $340,000 on a separate "vote no" campaign in an effort to defeat the referendum.

The referendum came about after a group named Regina Water Watch collected thousands of signatures on a petition in an effort to stop the city's plan for a private-public partnership (P3) on the $224-million sewage-plant upgrade.

The group says the city is moving toward privatizing the plant and is low-balling the costs.

Sewage treatment plant referendum resolution

The resolution on the Sept. 25 ballot will read as follows:

"That the Council of the City of Regina publicly finance, operate and maintain the new wastewater treatment plant for Regina through a traditional Design, Bid, Build (DBB) approach."

The city says $58.5 million in federal funding could be lost if Regina Water Watch gets its way and a more traditional project is approved.

The city clerk decided there weren't enough valid petition signatures to force the vote, but council — which supports the P3 plan — decided that a referendum should be held anyway.

At the special meeting Wednesday, council approved the spending for a referendum to be held Sept. 25.

There were several options possible, based on how many polling stations and workers are hired, with the costs ranging from $300,000 to $550,000.

The $550,000 option will pay for three polling stations in each of the 10 wards. The city says it wants to get 600 people to work at the stations.

With everything added up, conducting the referendum, advertising the vote and rolling out the "no" campaign will cost about $890,000.

There are signs that a city information campaign has already begun. Recently, the City of Regina twitter account has included tweets that included a "vote no" hashtag.

On Tuesday, an unknown number of Regina residents received robocalls, apparently from the city, in support of the P3 plan. "Vote No" posters have been put up in at least one city bar.