Erin ready to spend on wastewater project

ERIN – Urban water users in Hillsburgh and Erin village will start to pay next year for development of the proposed wastewater system, even though construction is not expected for several years.

Council reviewed a series of 163 strategic initiatives on Oct. 1 as part of the 2020 budget process, endorsing a ranking of priorities provided by staff, along with an estimate of money needed to support various initiatives.

Rated as top priorities in the growth management area are obtaining senior government financing for wastewater ($50,000), concluding a wastewater financing agreement ($50,000) and updating the development charges bylaw to incorporate the cost of wastewater and water environmental assessments ($75,000).

Many costs will eventually be paid by housing developers through development charges, but some costs will fall to the existing residents who now get town water, and will eventually get wastewater service.

That is the case with the planned hiring of a new contract engineer in mid-2020 to “manage the timely construction of the wastewater servicing project.”

That project management position is estimated to cost about $75,000 for half of 2020 and $150,000 per year for several years into the future.

The money will come from water lifecycle reserve funds that have been built up over many years from the water rates paid by urban residents.

That is consistent with the town’s pledge that rural residents, who will not receive wastewater service, will not have to pay for the system.

Actual costs for the various priorities will be updated at the beginning of each year’s budget process.

Finance director Ursula D’Angelo said that with wastewater costs being paid by reserves, future wastewater rates and development charges, there should be a “net-zero impact” on general property taxes.

Councillor Mike Robins expressed concern that the town might use too much of its debt capacity on wastewater, leaving it without enough to support other infrastructure.

D’Angelo said the province might allow the town to go over its normal debt limit “if there is a plan in place to repay it.”

Council was told that once development activity starts, it might be more efficient to hire a town planner instead of paying Wellington County to do the work.

The town may also hire consultants in 2020 for various tasks related to growth, such as a fire department master plan ($80,000), updating the development standards manual ($25,000), amending the official plan to implement the growth strategy ($70,000), review and amend community design guidelines ($50,000), create architectural design guidelines ($50,000) and review and amend the zoning bylaw for urban standards ($80,000 in 2021).

Some of these tasks would be supported by general taxation.

The full list of the town’s prioritized strategic initiatives is available at in the Oct. 1 agenda. It includes initiatives previously outlined in the town’s strategic plan, economic development strategy and parks and recreation and culture masterplan.