Dawsonites are taking democracy to the streets.
They are collecting signatures to petition the town council to hold a referendum on the proposed site for the town’s sewage lagoon.
The referendum would ask citizens to support a bylaw to ban lagoon construction at lot 1059, a controversial site near the entrance of town.
Now they need support from 25 per cent of the voting public to force council to hold the referendum, according to the Municipal Act.
The yes-vote could have a ripple effect.
It may slow the court-ordered process of finding a suitable place for a sewage-treatment facility in Dawson.
It could also add to the expense.
“If the court and Crown counsel see that the citizens truly, through a referendum, say they don’t want the sewage lagoon at lot 1059, well, then the court may just throw up its hands and order us to build a mechanical plant, which is not good news because we can’t afford it,” said Dawson mayor, John Steins.
Currently, Ottawa and the Yukon government are paying for the $17-million sewage lagoon.
A mechanical plant would cost well over $20 million to build and $600,000 per year to operate, said Steins.
“If construction has already started and the people of Dawson direct their council to stop it, there could be a huge cost implication, not to mention even further delays in getting a sewage treatment system in place,” said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff, Community Services critic, in the legislature last week.
Recently, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation offered a piece of its land as an alternative site for the sewage lagoon.
If the Yukon government does not consider alternate sites for the lagoon now, it will waste money planning for a site that will never become a lagoon, said Cardiff in an interview on Thursday.
“This decision seems to have been done without adequate public consultation and members of the community, by way of this petition, are expressing their concerns over the way the decision was arrived at to put the sewage lagoon where it is,” he said.
“I think, if there’s a referendum and the citizens of Dawson vote against putting the lagoon at the site near the entrance to town, then the government will be left with no option, so in that respect they should be looking at other options now as opposed to later.”