Guelph-Eramosa council approves watermain repair project in Rockwood

GUELPH-ERAMOSA – After a watermain break in December, Guelph-Eramosa Township council has approved a $495,000 repair to take place in the spring.

Council made the decision at its Feb. 16 council meeting.

The watermain on Highway 7, between Carroll Street and Fredrick Street in Rockwood, broke on Dec. 23, resulting in extensive damage to the roadway.

Main Street South is part of a provincial highway and under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The ministry issued temporary repairs to the area on Dec. 24, with permanent repairs to follow.

As the damage was caused by the burst watermain owned by the township, the municipality is responsible for paying for the complete repair and restoration of the road.

At minimum, the road requires asphalt removal and replacement for approximately 135 metres.

Harry Niemi, director of public works, told council the cost to fix the roadway is estimated at $255,000 plus HST.

“This includes traffic control, removal, and [asphalt] replacement,” stated Niemi in his report.

“Also included is an allowance for some curb and sidewalk removal and replacement, plus contingency items of adjusting existing manhole structures and water valves.”

He added that with the road already torn up, this might be a good opportunity to reduce the risk of future breaks, so he suggested replacement of the 50-year-old watermain.

“Should the road component be completed without the watermain, this section is still equally susceptible to future breaks and equally costly road repair,” Niemi said.

“This wasn’t really a planned replacement, but it’s one I feel we should do at this point, because if we just replace the road at [$250,000], we have just spent [$250,000] but we haven’t really replaced any infrastructure.”

Replacing the watermain  increases the amount of work needed to be done, bringing the cost to $430,000 plus HST, an increase of $175,000 for the township. This does not include costs for the design of the watermain, which could add another 15 per cent.

“Replacing the watermain through the repair area will enable additional valves to be installed which may be used more effectively for isolating for future breaks in any of part of the distribution system,” said Niemi.

Mayor Chris White agreed with Niemi, saying, “the replacement of the older pipes while we are doing [the road repairs] just makes absolute sense.”

He added, “It’s a shame that probably over a decade ago when some major work was done on Highway 7, we didn’t do more pipe replacement, because it seems like a lot of this stuff from the late ‘70s is coming back to haunt us and I’d hate to have a situation where we spent [$250,000] and then next year the old pipes are left under to burst again.”

The report states the funding for this project will come from the Rockwood water reserves.

Councillor Mark Bouwmeester said the township is lucky it has the money in reserves.

“As a Rockwood water user, when I pay my water bill, I know how much it costs and sometimes it’s hard to swallow, but it’s not just for the water I’m using that period … part of it goes into reserves.”

He added, “this is a perfect example of where you have an unplanned emergency road repair that we are going to be able to use [reserves] for. It’s a hard pill to swallow and a big price tag but we’ve got the money and that’s fantastic.”

Bouwmeester expressed concern about what happens if something like this happens again, and if the reserves will have enough money to cover that.

Linda Cheyne, director of finance, said, “We have about $650,000 in capital and life cycle reserves as of the end of December 2020,” adding more money will be coming into that fund this year and the township has a secondary operating reserve with about $400,000.

She said the township will be well-prepared if the situation arises again.

Council approved the request to move forward to the design stage for this project.