By Bejay Browne
IN THE latest twist in the sewerage saga in Peyia, the local council is demanding an extension on outstanding bills until 2018 and is threatening to exit the scheme if the demands aren’t met.
The decision followed an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday night with all of the councilors voting in favour of the move, with the exception of Linda Leblanc.
A previous ‘final’ extension for the payment of sewerage tax in Peyia required that all outstanding bills be settled by the end of June.
The deadline came after a two-month extension requested by the council, which had initially asked for a one-year delay. This was rejected by the Paphos sewerage board SAPA.
Leblanc said that the latest move comes in the wake of rumours that the government is planning to request an extension from the EU for the required sewerage works, due to the economic crisis.
She said: “They are talking of 2025 as a new deadline for some areas. But we don’t know if this will be accepted by the EU or if Coral Bay will be included in any extended timeframes.”
According to the councilor, Evi Theopemptou, an experienced water and sanitary engineer who was recently hired by the council wasn’t consulted, as the mayor insisted that the move was a political one. Theopemptou has already compiled a timetable which will see Peyia operating a sewerage network in the Coral Bay tourist area by the end of 2017.
Describing the situation as chaos, Leblanc said the decision isn’t logical or sane.
“This is part of the usual short term thinking and macho game playing. Nothing has been learnt from previous mistakes and even with all of the unknowns and a shaky confidence in SAPA, there will be serious consequences if we leave the scheme.”
Leblanc noted that if the municipality tries to implement the sewerage system, which is required by the EU, they will face a raft of problems. The municipality already has around €6m in outstanding loans and any collateral is mortgaged to the hilt.
“We have no way to raise any loans for such a big infrastructure project and Peyia will then be responsible for EU fines which will be imposed for any delays.”
Peyia council is requesting a delay on any SAPA tax until 2018 with only Coral Bay considered in the project. She warned that if taxes aren’t collected, there wouldn’t be sufficient funds available to undertake a feasibility study.
In addition, a long delay in having effective sewerage system in the tourist area spells bad news she said, as Coral Bay is already suffering environmental damage due to poor water management, which will only deteriorate further if nothing is done.
She said if the deadline is accepted, it will be a further decade before any progress is made. If the project were to proceed with the current timeframe, Peyia will benefit as tender offers are currently much lower due to the economic crisis, resulting in 20-30% savings on big projects.
“The longer we wait, the more it will cost. One of the reasons they are stalling is due to big burdens being placed on owners of large areas of land during an economic crisis. They have been hit with bills in the thousands.”
The councilor said that another meeting on the subject involving all of the concerned parties is due to be held in Nicosia on Monday.
As it stands, if people don’t pay by the deadline, there will be a 20 per cent surcharge on outstanding debts. If the municipality exits the scheme, Leblanc said that SAPA had promised to return any money already collected.