Central Elgin is $1.85-million short on water, sewage spending

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Central Elgin is $950,000 short a year on capital spending on its sanitary sewage system and $900,000 short on its water budget, two final DAMPs (Detailed Asset Management Plan) submitted to council on Monday, Aug. 16, asserted.

The studies were the final two of five that the Ontario government is requiring Central Elgin, and all other municipalities in the province, to undertake.

The province wants municipalities to cover the full costs of their roads, bridges and culverts, storm sewers, and water and sewage systems, rather than letting them deteriorate and then looking to the Ontario government for a financial bailout when they need replacement.

Asset Management and Development Services Director Lloyd Perrin told councillors that Central Elgin currently spent $4.95-million a year on operating and maintaining its sanitary sewage system but should really be spending an additional $950,000 annually to avoid it deteriorating over time.

The numbers for the municipality’s water system were $3.1-million a year, with a shortfall of $900,000.

Mayor Sally Martyn said the adoption of these two final DAMPs “should give us an excellent idea of where we’re going.”

Councillor Bill Fehr asked, “Is it affordable?” Dealing with issues with the water system in recent years had been a struggle.

“This would add a tremendous amount of more expenses. To me, that’s not affordable.”

Mr. Perrin said the DAMPs were “forward looking” and meant to indicate how the water and sewage systems would change over time.

In addition, he said, the municipality expected to acquire an additional $12-million in sanitary sewage assets over the next 10 years, and $13-million in water assets, as new subdivisions were completed and turned over to Central Elgin ownership.

That would require more money to look after, and his recommendation to council was to continue implementation of annual rate increases over the next 10 years, as approved in a study earlier this year.

Councillors would have to decide, too, how to finance the provision of water and sewage servicing to unserviced areas in future.

Central Elgin had in the past “fronted” the cost of that, and then been repaid through development charges on new growth.

In future, developers might be called on to finance those costs up front.

“As we go through this process, our information is becoming more mature, and we can provide better information to council for their decision-making.”

Mayor Martyn said that was already being examined when it came to the possibility of extending sanitary sewage lines to Union.

Mr. Perrin said he’d received no formal direction from council on that point, but that would be his recommendation.

Cr. Dennis Crevits asked how much of the $1.85-million combined water-sewage shortfall had been considered in Central Elgin’s most recent rate studies for those systems.

Mr. Perrin said the water and sanitary sewage DAMPs were different from the previous three council had already adopted.

Unlike roads, bridges and storm sewers, which were paid for through tax dollars, the costs of operating the water and sewage systems were paid by customers who used them.

The complicating factor with the latter was that annual revenue depended heavily on each year’s weather, he stated. Water use tended to go down in wet weather, for example.

That was why staff was suggesting implementing increases to water and sewage rates as recommended in the latest studies. “We can only do what we can do with the resources that are available.”

He noted that when Central Elgin’s water and sewage systems were originally installed, the federal and provincial governments covered the cost.

That help was no longer available, he said. “We need to be cognizant of that.”

Rob Perry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express

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