Three members of the public questioned the Town’s approach to paying for upgrades to its wastewater treatment system at Gibsons council on Tuesday – including two who suggested costs should be taken on by the George Hotel and Residences development.
“It concerns me that you have a loan authorization bylaw out there right now [and] people don’t know that it’s related to the George,” longtime George critic Suzanne Senger told council.
“The message from the Town is certainly not that it’s related to the George and it clearly is about accommodating the George. It seems to me this needs to be addressed.”
Crucial upgrades to the Prowse Road lift station, through which 40 per cent of Gibsons’ wastewater flows on its way to the town’s wastewater treatment plant, are expected to cost about $1.76 million. The site of the George is situated in the lift station’s catchment area, which covers nearly half of Gibsons.
There are no reserves in place for the essential but aging infrastructure, and grant applications were unsuccessful. Councillors previously voted to move ahead with an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) for a loan authorization bylaw to borrow the funds. The AAP, already underway, closes Wednesday, June 12. Public information sessions are scheduled for June 4, at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, May 22, councillors gave first, second and third reading to a bylaw amendment that would increase excess services charges – an additional fee paid by new development in the catchment area – to help recover the costs for the lift station.
During public comment period, after the bylaw passed third reading, Senger asked whether council had read technical reports from 2014 summarized in infrastructure services director Dave Newman’s report to council.
Mayor Bill Beamish replied that no matter what, the upgrades were required. “It is just a matter of infrastructure renewal, is my understanding. Whether or not the George was there, the project would be done.”
“That’s not my understanding at all,” replied Senger, who said that Kerr Wood Leidal was retained by the Town in 2014 to review the upgrade options “to accommodate the loads from the George.”
“At that time, staff communicated very clearly, explicitly, with the developer that it was a cost charge, an offsite servicing cost that the developer was obligated to pay,” she said.
Beamish said he had not read the 2014 report, but that he is aware the upgrades have been required for some time. He asked Newman to forward the referenced reports to council for review.
Another member of the public, Judith Bonkoff, asked questions at the start of the meeting about the nature of the upgrades to the Prowse Road lift station, including whether it was being upgraded “because we’re going to have anticipated wastewater flows from the George project,” and if that’s the case, “why isn’t the George developer paying for this work?”
During his presentation to council, Newman told council in response to her query, “The question was, is the timing of these improvements to the pump station, are they related to the George? The answer is no.” He added that the biggest concern is the condition of the lift station. It has been on council’s radar since 2006, he said, but it wasn’t until last year that “the bullet was bit.”
The pump station does not have a backup, and would require six pump trucks should it fail, risking sewage outflow into Gibsons Harbour.
Newman said that capacity upgrades that will be made “would service the growth in the entire area that is being serviced by that pump station. Yes, the George is one of those,” he added, pointing as well to developments along Gibsons Way.
At the same regular council meeting, councillors also voted to award Drake Excavating Ltd. a contract, worth approximately $1.5 million, to perform upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant to address issues first identified in 2014, including the treatment plant’s inability to handle “the potential flows from the Prowse Road lift station.” According to the staff report, “the lift station pumps are running at about half their capacity to accommodate this restriction.” Optional items to do with chemical treatment could also be pursued and were built into the budget.
The total construction costs are expected to be about $1.9 million, paid for through a combination of user fees, reserves, development cost charges, and funds from gas taxes, with a federal grant making up the difference. Construction is expected to start by mid-June and be completed in October.