The RM of Park council is at a crossroads.
After completing the initial phase of the Onanole water and sewer project, skyrocketing costs have put the second phase in jeopardy.
During the first phase, the RM built the primary infrastructure for water and sewer to the community. Water and sewer mains were stretched from the north becoming the backbone of the system.
Because the initial phase is essential to bringing approximately 1,300 lots online, the cost was borne by all lot owners. Each owner will pay $2,000 through a special levy added to their tax bill over an extended period of time.
The second phase involves the trenching and construction of street services that would provide sewer and water access to 195 lots in the south end of Onanole. Initially the phase was expected to cost $2.1 million, a number that has since swelled to $7 million.
RM of Park CEO Chad Davies said the RM secured funding from the federal and provincial governments under the Building Canada Fund. In 2009, $1.45 million was committed from the two senior levels of government, representing two-thirds of the estimated cost at the time.
With the cost now more than tripled, it’s the lot owners who are being asked to make up the $4.9 million difference. The added expense would add about $30,000 over 20 years to each lot owner’s bill.
Alice Bourgouin, who owns 11 commercial lots near the highway, said the cost has outstripped the benefits of the phase. While she believes the sewer and water project has merit, she said the costs would cripple some people.
"It’s going to put a burden on the younger generation and some of the seniors are on fixed incomes so it’s difficult. They can’t put this on the back of the people."
Complicating matters more is how close the proposed phase is to being scrapped based on a clause in the Municipal Act.
According to Davies, if two-thirds of the landowners affected by the second phase present opposition, council is obligated to turf the proposal and not revisit it for two years in accordance with the act.
Since the lots are owned by a total of 278 people, a two-thirds majority is achieved with 185 people — at a public hearing on Monday, 179 people opposed the proposal.
Three decades ago, a similar project was dropped by the council of the day due to high costs, while many other communities forged ahead.
Ray Frey, councillor for Ward 5, said recent changes by Manitoba Conservation have nearly doubled the cost of the installation.
No longer is it acceptable to trench one ditch and lay the sewer line one metre below the water line, according to Frey. Now, each line needs its own trench.
During his 17 years on council, sewer and water has been an ongoing debate and Frey said he’s still unsure which way he’ll vote at the meeting this Monday.
"It’s tough to proceed when it’s 60 per cent opposed," he said. "I’m still struggling with it and I’ll see what the other councillors have to say and we’ll go from there."