With time running out and few options, Kincardine council is attempting to salvage at least part of the proposed Inverhuron water and sewer project.
In a unanimous recorded vote last night (May 13), council agreed to request a two-year extension for the Building Canada Fund grant, and scale back the project to address the areas of Inverhuron that are critically in need of municipal water and sewer services.
In committee-of-the-whole, chief building official Michele Barr outlined the motion to request an extension and change the scope of the project, noting that all of the factors that have delayed the project have been included.
Among these are the fact that an archeological investigation took two full years to complete; it took a year for the environment ministry to approve the project after the notice of completion of the Environmental Assessment (EA) was issued Jan. 22, 2014; and a request for an extension for the grant funding was denied.
In fact, one clause points out that the factors leading to the timeline and costing challenges were outside the control and influence of the municipality, including the Crown's obligation to consult with, and accommodate, the interests of the First Nations in projects of this nature.
The motion calls for the mayor and project team to immediately and, with all urgency, seek approval of the funding partners to extend the timeline for completion of the project to March 31, 2018, with all project milestones under the agreement with Her Majesty the Queen (Building Canada Fund) adjusted accordingly, which effort may include political engagement if deemed appropriate.
In parallel, the project team is to proceed immediately to develop a preferred option to redefine the scope of the project to address the sectors of Inverhuron that are critically in need of municipal water and sewer services, including design, engineering and costing projections, and that this modified project scope be submitted to the funding partners for approval, in tandem with the request for extension of the project completion date.
Councillor Laura Haight, policy chairperson for water and wastewater services, said unless council receives approval for the extension, there would be no need to go any further with the project at this time.
“So, if there is no extension to 2018, then there is no phased-in project?” asked councillor Maureen Couture.
“That's right,” said Haight.
Mayor Anne Eadie said council should retain the EA and plan a scaled-down version of the project for the future when there may be another pot of funding available.
“I doubt an extension will be granted,” she said. “We didn't get one before. We should take our time, allow for public input and do this work properly. The EA is good for 10 years.”
AT LEAST GIVE IT A TRY, SAYS HAIGHT
“I think we should at least give it a try,” said Haight. “If we get the extension to March, 2018, we will know by June or July of this year. We get the plans drawn up and go to tender, with work started by January. It's a smaller project and it's in a sandy area. But I understand that if there's no extension, it's unlikely we would do anything at this point. We'd go back to the drawing board and see what the per-property cost would be.”
“I agree that we should make the attempt,” said Couture, adding that there is a critical need for municipal services in part of Inverhuron.
Haight said $15,000 per property was the rule of thumb when costing this project, but then the tenders came in and that cost more than doubled. “However, some cottage owners may be willing to pay more to get services; you have to consider what your property is worth.”
She said if the municipality tenders a smaller project over a longer time period, it might get better prices. “We need to get face-to-face with the decision-makers on the funding end and state our case. We deserve a break on behalf of our citizens.”
“If we go this route, would we still engage the community affected by this scaled-down project?” asked deputy mayor Jacqueline Faubert.
“That's difficult to say,” said Haight. “There was consultation during the EA process. Do we have consultation with just the affected property owners, with the Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens Association, with the rural areas if council decides to use water reserves to pay part of the cost for the affected property owners?
“In my opinion, consultation has happened. I'm not sure if there is value added to more public consultation.”
“I agree,” said Couture. “Once we have new information, then only the people directly affected should be consulted, not the entire community. We've already done that.”
However, she noted that all the council meetings are public, and people have an opportunity to provide input at those meetings.
Barr said the critical area in Inverhuron, to be included in a scaled-down version of the project, would be Lake Street, Cayley Street and John Street.
Engineer Dale Erb of B.M. Ross and Associates, said that would include 92 homes for sewers, and 48 homes for water, as well as the sewer forcemain to the lagoons.
In council session, the motion to request an extension and to develop a scaled-down project was approved unanimously, with Eadie, Faubert, Haight, Couture, and councillors Gordon Campbell, Randy Roppel and Andrew White in favour. Councillors Mike Leggett and Linda McKee were absent.
In addition, council approved a motion to instruct municipal legal council to take appropriate measures to challenge and oppose the judicial review of the project, which the Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens Association gave notice May 4, it plans to apply for in divisional court. Further, municipal legal council is to consult on the matter with legal counsel at the provincial level and with the Inverhuron association.
And finally, council approved a motion to reject the tenders for the Inverhuron water and sewer project.
The project was approved in 2009 at an estimated cost of $9.115-million, of which Kincardine has been approved for $6.076-million in provincial and federal funding through the Building Canada Fund.