Bayham councillors decided Thursday, Oct. 7, to go for the maximum possible grant it can get, to cover $12-million of $20-million in proposed storm sewer replacements in Port Burwell.
Administrator Thomas Thayer and Capital Works Manager Ed Roloson, in a joint report, stated that much of the existing Port Burwell storm sewer system dated back to the 1950s and 1960s, and needed improvements.
An increase in the number of “intense weather and rain events” recently had put a greater strain on that system and illuminated the need for its renewal, they said.
The municipality, they pointed out, already had a plan to replace the system, broken into 11 phases, two of which had already been completed with help from a Clean Water/Wastewater Fund grant from the federal government.
However, the criteria for that fund had changed, and storm sewer projects were no longer eligible.
Based on estimates from engineers Spriet Associates, the remaining phases, based on recent cost increases for such work, would require an investment of $38- to $40-million.
They recommended applying to the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, which focuses on upgrades needed to deal with environmental changes, for grants to cover additional phases of the Port Burwell project.
They offered three options:
One to cover the next four phases, at a total estimated cost of $5.7-million, with the grant paying $2.28-million and Bayham $3.42-million;
The second would include more phases, at an estimated cost of $13.9-million, with the fund paying $5.56-million and Bayham $8.34-million;
And the third would include even more, though not quite all, phases, at a cost of $20.8-million, $800,000 over the maximum that could be funded through a grant application, with the fund covering $8-million and Bayham $12.8-million.
In each case, Bayham’s share would be paid through debt financing at a rate of 2.59 percent annually over 25 years through Infrastructure Ontario.
Mr. Roloson said while ambitious, the improvements could lead to growth and urban renewal in Port Burwell. “We would be foolish not to give it due consideration.”
Councillor Valerie Donnell said, “It will change so many homes in Port Burwell that have been mitigating the water coming in their homes and the issues that come with that. This is a chance for us to make some big steps and I can’t hardly wait.”
Mayor Ed Ketchabaw said the scale of the proposed projects would “tick a lot of boxes” when it came to deficiencies recorded in Bayham’s asset management plan.
Councillors started talking about the need for storm sewer upgrades in Port Burwell in 2015, and in the intervening time the estimated cost had risen from $20-million to as much as $40-million.
“If we don’t strike now, it will be out of reach,” as costs continued to rise, he predicted.
Cr. Susan Chilcott asked how the work would be paid for.
Mayor Ketchabaw said in most cases, grants were usually paid only after work was completed.
Cr. Donnell recommended pursuing the third option, with an estimated cost of $20.8-million.
Deputy Mayor Rainey Weisler asked if any new grant programs might come in future.
Mr. Roloson said he had never in his career seen so many grants that focused on climate change. With the recent federal election and an Ontario election looking, more could be announced.
Cr. Susan Chilcott agreed with pursuing the highest grant possible. “We might as well get as much back as we can.”
Mr. Roloson said the grant application, if approved, could accelerate work that needed to be done.
Other councillors also agreed to pursue the maximum grant possible.
Jeff Helsdon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express