Puslinch water/sewage proposal unlikely without federal, provincial funding

ABERFOYLE – Without significant funding from the provincial or federal government, it is unlikely Puslinch will build a municipal water or wastewater system anytime soon.

On Sept. 18, Puslinch councillors once again reviewed materials regarding a revised feasibility study to provide water and wastewater services for the municipality.

The previous study had included the potential of residential users, but council chose not to move ahead with that option.

At a previous meeting the scope of the project was narrowed to a short list of industrial users in the Aberfoyle area.

Engineer Stuart Winchester of Municipal Infrastructure CIMA spoke regarding an addendum to the existing feasibility study for municipal water and sewage servicing.

CIMA is a Canadian consulting engineering company that specializes in planning, design and construction management for municipal water, wastewater and infrastructure facilities.

Winchester said the study looked at the feasibility of providing water and wastewater services to industrial and commercial users in the Aberfoyle area.

He acknowledged the previous study looked at a much larger area that included a significant number of residential properties.

Winchester said the current study was to provide information for council to consider before making a decision on whether or not to move ahead.

He noted positive aspects of the Puslinch community include its proximity to Highway 401 and Guelph, excellent access to transportation such as Go Transit and space for growth.

However, he said lack of municipal services may limit commercial and industrial growth.

Winchester added current servicing consists of individual on-site wells, septic systems as well as few private communal water and sewage systems.

He said the area already has a number of major industries and commercial operations including (but not limited to) Royal Canin, Nestlé Waters, Capital Paving, Con Cast Pipe and Dufferin Aggregates.

He said according to the Wellington County official plan by 2041 there is the potential for an additional 1,600 employees within Puslinch.

He said “those numbers could increase if services were available. How much? I don’t know.”

Servicing approach

Winchester said, “what we looked at were two very high level service approaches.”

One would be a stand-alone option – township owned and operated.

The second option would be hooking into the Guelph municipal services.

These plans looked at potential water supplies within Puslinch as well as potential locations for wastewater treatment.

The study assumed the integration of an elevated water storage facility in Aberfoyle.

However, Winchester added a decision could only come after an additional Environmental Assessment study.

He said the inter-municipal option was fairly similar, except that it would be hooking up to the City of Guelph.

He then offered preliminary costs for each alternative.

Township servicing

For the township servicing option, services would be provided by Puslinch and include:  new municipal water system; new well(s), treatment facility, storage, pumping, distribution; new municipal sewage system; and, new pumping station, treatment system, conveyance system.

Water service cost about $23 million and a waste water treatment system about $29 million.

Hooking in with Guelph Services

To hook up with Guelph services the services would be provided jointly by the township and Guelph via connection to Guelph water supply and the city waste water collection/treatment system.

Water service cost about $20 million (does not include any costs to upgrade Guelph infrastructure) and wastewater service would be about $12 million.

He said hooking into the Guelph system could potentially provide significant capital cost savings, but without negotiations with the city, the actual capital cost contributions would be unknown or even if sewage capacity would be made available to the township.

Full cost recovery estimates for the 128 industrial/commercial properties that would benefit from access to municipal water/wastewater systems were also provided to council.

Winchester said those costs could be reduced if provincial and federal funds became available.

“However given the current climate, I am not sure on the success of that route any time soon,” Winchester said.

He noted a survey was sent out to commercial/industrial users in the Aberfoyle area.

“Of the 128 surveys sent out, we received 29 responses. Of those, 17 were in favour, seven against, and one undecided,” he said.

Based on the response, Winchester said “it seemed everyone was pretty much in favour.

“But because of the low response rate, I am not certain how valid that response might be.”

It would be up to the township to clarify the interest.

Councillor Jessica Goyda noted that the decision to proceed with a municipal water/wastewater system or not was one of the first items discussed during the current term of council.

“It was really clear this was something the residents did not want to pay for,” she said.

As to the actual need, Goyda said 128 surveys were sent out to property owners and only 29 responded.

“While 17 were in favour, 17 out of 128 isn’t really a convincing number,” she added.

She asked if the response indicated a lack of interest or whether other factors were involved.

Assuming no funding from either the provincial or federal governments, owners could face connections charges of $400,000 to $500,000, she added.

“At the end of the day what is the township and the property owners really gaining?” asked Goyda.

Winchester stated the township would gain a more attractive place for industrial and commercial growth.

Goyda asked if the township was to go ahead, what would happen if some of the 128 property owners were unable or unwilling to pay.

CAO Patrick Moyle said  “at the end of the day we are looking at the cost recovery of something,” adding the debt payments would have a significant impact on the municipality.

Moyle said Puslinch would be moving from “having no debt to a lot of debt.”

Township finance director Mary Hasan said the township’s current debt repayment limit is $750,000.

She added, “Municipal best practices is generally 10% of net revenues which would be about $300,000.”

In a 20-year debenture that amount would only raise about $6-million based on that annual repayment limit.

Based on what would be permitted as annual debt payments, it is unlikely the municipality would be able to pay a fraction of the debt over a 20-year-period, Hasan explained.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said a municipal well would not address source water protection policy concerns. He saod the specific area is almost built out with limited opportunities for new employment growth.

“There’s only 5 to 10 per cent growth left in that area. I’m struggling with this report which suggested 1,500 new jobs could continue,” he said.

He believed there are still a number of concerns – one of which was the rate of non-responses to the survey.

Puslinch Mayor James Seeley thanked Winchester for his work on the project.

“It is very difficult with so many unknowns,” he said.

Council received the presentation and will revisit the possibility only if funding becomes available.