Sewage treatment plan comes with high price for council, taxpayers

Nadine Armstrong/Hants
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The Hants Journal

The Municipality of West Hants is facing some tough choices this week. Plans to complete phase two of the Falmouth sewage treatment plant backed up last week when tenders came in $1 million over budget.

Area councillor Pam Ainsle said there was no way she could support the project going forward with a $3 million dollar pricetag. “I just can’t go for that. To award this tender for a million more is something I just can’t support. That is a lot of money for the residents of West Hants,” she said.

A motion to approve the tender for $3,835,528 was tabled by council last Tuesday and an emergency meeting has been called for this week to explore the options.

Director of Public Works Rick Sherrard said that although staff had worked diligently to supply council with accurate information, he was unable to explain the price hike. “We can’t say why the tender prices came in higher than anticipated and we have not been able to come up with a better savings based on the scope of the work involved,” he said.

He noted estimates were not based on a winter construction season as all tenders entered looked at the cost of a fall/ spring build.

Add a phase three?

One option council may consider is to scale back the project by adding a phase three and Sherrard says that is an option that would require more investigation. “We did not look at opportunities to scale the project back,” he said. “That was not an option presented to us.”

However, because funding for the project has been approved by both the federal and provincial governments, council fears cutting the original $2 million allowance. Either way, Sherrard said at some point council would have to complete the project. “The bottom line is that within three to five years we would have to look at adding the pieces we scale back today.”

Councillor Shirley Pineo said by then prices would likely rise, not fall. “It you look at the trends prices go up, not down and in five years we could be looking at a higher cost than we are today. “We have to remember we received the two million in infrastructure money and if we scale back the project they could scale back the money. We don’t want to lose that hard-fought for funding. If this project doesn’t happen we can’t continue to build in Falmouth,” she said.

Warden Richard Dauphinee supported Ainsle’s concerns and left the Warden’s seat to express his objections. “What I’ve been trying to do is put myself in the shoes of our residents and would I want this to happen to me?” He said the cost of the plant at the tender price would raise property taxes in the area to between $800-900 per household. “We need to remember that we represent the people, not the contactors and I cannot support this if it means we’re driving people out of their homes. We are not backed into a corner here and I will work my hardest to phase this back. This whole council would be crucified if the public knew we were considering this kind of cost.”

Dauphinee will meet with funding officials to plead that case before the next council sitting.

Organizations: Hants Journal, Municipality of West Hants

Geographic location: Falmouth, West Hants

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