Despite months of discussion, it seems the town and the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) still do not have an agreement in place for a new wastewater system at Erin District High School.
The two sides can not agree on the financial details for the new system – specifically how much each is willing to contribute.
And based on comments this week from town and board officials, there appears to be some confusion over who is to take the next step, with both sides claiming they are waiting to hear back from the other.
A recent letter from the board stated the town’s portion for the replacement would be a maximum of $250,000. But that amount seemed high to town officials.
They had an engineer complete an analysis of the old arena wastewater system used prior to the construction of Centre 2000 and the school. The report found the town could proceed on its own using components of that old system – to service everything but the school – for no more than $200,000.
So, Finnie said, town officials have told the board that is also the maximum amount the municipality would be willing to pay towards a shared system with the board.
“Basically, we are keeping the dialogue open,” Finnie said. However, he stressed the town “can’t be open-ended” when it comes to the financial details. He concluded by saying the town is now waiting to hear back from the board.
But UGDSB communications officer Maggie McFadzen told the Advertiser the board has received no indication the town has received a final engineering report or that council has voted on the matter.
“We’re waiting to hear what the [town’s] final report says,” McFadzen said.
She explained the town’s most recent letter included only its engineer’s “initial findings” and nowhere indicated it was awaiting a response from the board.
The original deal proposed to the town by UGDSB officials stated:
– the board will plan and supervise the construction and pay for the new sewage plant;
– the board will obtain the necessary MOE approvals;
– flow meters, paid for by each party, will be installed to measure the actual flow from the community centre, arena and school; and
– the new plant will utilize the existing tile bed and as much of the existing system as possible, including an unused tank and existing high school septic bed.
Finnie said on Monday one aspect that will likely be going forward regardless of the final decision, is the installation of flow meters on pipes coming from the building. The monitoring equipment will help determine if ground water is getting into the current system, and also help determine what percentage of total facility wastewater is used by the board and town.
Earlier the board proposed the town pay its portion of capital costs annually over 10 years, with the first year split 50:50 and subsequent years based on flow data. The board also wants a similar deal for operating and maintenance costs.
But town officials maintain a 50:50 proposal, even for one year, makes little sense. Finnie said he suspects the town’s usage is closer to 10 to 15% than 50%.
When Centre 2000 was constructed, the existing wastewater system for the arena, which was installed in the early 1990s, was abandoned. A newer, much larger facility and leaching bed were installed to service the entire building and high school as well as a future residential development that never materialized.
Engineer John Duffy, of Van Harten Surveying Inc., said in a recent report to council the size of the newer system is likely to blame for current problems.
“The treatment plant is understood to be significantly oversized compared to the daily input of sewage and has never been able to function properly due to a lack of sewage flow,” Duffy said.
In a January letter to town staff, Paul Scinocca, the board’s manager of capital and renewal projects, said the treatment plant “is not compliant with the Certificate of Approval issued by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and … is prohibitive to repair and … replacement is in order.”
The board has received funding approval for the project through the Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Green School Initiative, with a stipulation that all work must be completed by Sept. 1.
But the town and board have to date been unable to come to an agreement on costs for a new system.