BY KIRK STARRATT
One resident says it has been a four-year struggle, but it’s great that Kings County councillors lived up to their obligation and did what they had to do by approving the Balsor-Eaglecrest central water project.
Eaglecrest subdivision resident Carson Greencorn, who spoke on behalf of affected residents at the Tuesday, April 15 committee of the whole (COTW) session, said residents have been wondering if they can even take a shower with well water containing arsenic. This is an issue for several residents in the subdivisions, located roughly to the southwest of New Minas.
Engineering and Public Works director Richard Lloyd said a March report to council on the tender results for the project identified a shortfall of $168,087 within funding estimates, which would result in the cost per resident increasing to $11,200. Council direction was to delay the award of the contract to allow staff to advise senior government partners of the financial situation, review project costs and communicate the revised costs to residents.
Even though the provincial contribution was to be spent by the end of March, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Jamie Muir issued a cheque for the Provincial Capital Assistance Program (PCAP) contribution on the condition that the funds are used exclusively for the project. The project cost estimate was reviewed to find areas to reduce the per-resident cost closer to the November 2007 estimate of $9,000. Total savings of $183,300 were identified.
Cost per resident would have to increase
Initially, the required 40 per cent of residents wishing to hook into the new water system at the estimated cost of $9,000 were onside. However, Lloyd said, even with the project savings identified, the cost per resident would have to be increased above the initial estimate.
The Extension of Central Water Distribution Systems policy specifies that if the tendered price of the project is above the estimated cost per property, all property owners that signed the consent form must be notified to see if they are still in favour of connecting to the service. Lloyd said staff understands that there now may be as many as 10 residents of Ward Avenue interested in participating in the project.
The revised cost of the project as of April is $2,464,000, or a per-resident cost of $9,600.
At the request of councillor Chris Parker, Warden Fred Whalen allowed one resident 10 minutes to speak on the issue. Greencorn said it’s time for council to let the project proceed and there is federal gas tax funding available. “All we’re asking for is safe drinking water,” he said, pointing out that the project costs would definitely increase if it was allowed to go back out to tender. “Nothing is going down.”
He said vacant lot owners and people who don’t live in the community have a say and their answer is ‘no’. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Had a contract
Parker said council had a contract with the residents for a per-resident project cost of $9,000 and pointed out that the county has helped out in other areas, paying more than their fair share for other projects in the past. He called on his colleagues to defeat the motion on the floor that would have recommended a per-resident cost of $9,600.
Instead, he said the motion should be for the earlier estimate of $9,000 and the county should make up the difference from other sources, considering the increased project cost estimate. “This won’t go through if it goes back to the public,” he said, pointing out that Lloyd has applied for more PCAP funding for the project. Lloyd said council’s direction was to request an additional $200,000 from the province, which he has done.
Councillor Madonna Spinazola drew attention to a child in the gallery and said she hates the idea of babies having to bathe in water with arsenic in it. “Let these people go home today knowing we’re letting the water go through,” she said.
Councillor Janet Newton said council shouldn’t be begging the province for more money because the county has the money here. “This has dragged on long enough,” she said. “Our own bylaw has us hamstrung.”
Council defeated the motion that included a per-resident cost of $9,600 and voted instead in favour of recommending approval of a per-resident cost of $9,000, the initial estimate.
Council decided to hold a special session at noon to approve the recommended per resident cost of $9,000. Council approved awarding the contract for the project to ACL Construction for the total price of $2,047,600 plus HST. Applause went up from affected residents gathered in the gallery.
BY KIRK STARRATT