A controversial water and sewer project in the RM of Park has been flushed after councillors voted unanimously to halt the multimillion-dollar undertaking.
Coun. Vern Jordan, who has worked on the project from the beginning, said the decision not to move forward with the second phase boiled down to dollars and common sense.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Jordan about the $30,000 each lot owner would have to pay in order for the project to come to fruition.
“I have a lot of empathy for the people I serve and I know it’s a lot of money. I asked myself: How would I feel if I was asked to fork out $30,000?”
Originally, the second phase involved the trenching and construction of street services that would provide sewer and water access to 195 lots in the south end of Onanole. It was expected to cost $2.1 million, according to engineers, but has since swelled to more than $7 million.
The RM secured $1.45 million — two-thirds of the initial project — from the Building Canada Fund. However, due to the rising costs lot owners would have been forced to make up the difference, meaning instead of covering the final third, they would have paid approximately 80 per cent of the overall costs.
The high price tag meant some people, including seniors living on a fixed income, would be forced to leave their homes.
“That would be totally unacceptable,” said Jordan, who was actually bounced from council for one term for voting to move ahead with the first phase.
“My concern was that we may actually end up displacing some people if we moved forward with the project. It’s our mandate to bring the information forward and we heard the people ... at the end of the day, people weren’t happy and we’re obligated to listen to that and we shelved the program.”
While some of the cost spike is attributed to rising construction costs and inflation, the main reason for the ballooning price tag was a new regulation from Manitoba Conservation that forces water and sewer lines to be laid in separated trenches.
“Separating the water and sewer lines helps to ensure that sewage is not inadvertently sucked into the drinking water line in the event of a pressure loss,” said Jean-Marc Prevost, spokesman for the department. “It also helps to reduce the risk of contamination during water-main maintenance and repairs.”
Council will now have to decide what to do with the infrastructure money.
Jordan said there is a possibility the RM installs the water portion of the project and look at completing a pump house and reservoir that was initially proposed in the first phase, but was eliminated due to high costs.
“We missed our chance in ’79 when a lot of other municipalities installed these services,” he said. “It’s a long, slow process, but we’ll get it done.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 30, 2013