Peyia residents are refusing to pay SAPA, Paphos Sewage Board-imposed bills issued for end-of-March payment until they have more information on the precise costs and nature of the works.
"SAPA has recently sent out sewerage tax bills for 2014, payable by end of March. This has caused an uproar and unnecessary confusion due to the failure of the mayor to provide any information at all to residents and zero public consultation," Coalition of Independent Councillor, Linda Leblanc told The Cyprus Weekly.
Following the Coalition's latest monthly community meeting, Leblanc confirmed that there are several issues revolving around taxation and the project which some residents are objecting to.
Primarily no one knows the details about the project or its cost. Currently and with little verification, SAPA is now referring to a figure of €20 million rather than a previous sum of €45m for a Peyia and Tala extension. To add to the confusion, estimates touted last autumn were in the region of over €30m with a 30-year loan repayment schedule.
Additionally, there is no schedule of works implementation making residents reluctant to pay for many years without any action as was seen in Paphos, Chlorakas and Kissonerga.
"There is a also lack of confidence in SAPA's competence, due to well known scandals and existing high debt level of the organisation and the tax is a rather high rate of 0.33% based on 1980 property values," Leblanc said. "Generally, I feel that most people in Peyia accept the need for a central sewerage system, as per EU Directives but the public want complete details."
To this end, the Coalition has proposed for Peyia Municipality to provide public meetings to inform residents with full information on the project.
"There have been many residents who have said they refuse to pay until full information is disclosed," Leblanc said. "Of course I think it's better that residents start to pay the tax sooner rather than later, as no matter what, the new system has to happen under EU law. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be and it is logical to at least start paying it off now, which will result in smaller yearly taxes."
On the positive side, there is light at the end of the tunnel over funding of the project once it gets underway. At last week's Peyia Municipality meeting, the council learned that when one fifth of the required amount of the project is collected through taxes, then the EU Development Bank will be obliged to fund it.
"This means once there €4m is collected in Peyia, then the project will be funded and commence."
Meanwhile, there was a meeting with the council and the Paphos District Officer on Tuesday this week to discuss the entire project where concerns were raised by councillors.
Following this meeting, there is expected to be a public meeting in Peyia, with representatives of SAPA, the Ministry of Interior and the Mayor to inform residents of full details.
"I requested that a meeting also be held in English and this has been accepted, although I don't know yet if there will be separate meetings or simultaneous translation at one meeting."
According to Leblanc and the Coalition, further public demands include the need for a separate account for Peyia to protect its investment and to ensure residents pay appropriate costs related to the extension rather than being loaded unfairly with existing SAPA debts. They also request an extension to deadline to pay the SAPA bill, as it is short notice for many and want a reduction in the rate.
A new system is mandatory under EU law and part of the widespread sewage works which have been going on in and around Paphos in recent years.
The first phase of the Peyia system earmarked for the tourist area, should have been completed at the end of 2012 so the entire project is already delayed. The EU has granted an extension to 2015.
Last year Tala community refused to meet SAPA's demand for funds through tax without a start date for the project, an estimate of the costs and full project details.