Council approves installation of utility services for affordable housing project

·4 min read

Jasper is another step closer to seeing the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments become reality following a decision by municipal council at their March 2 regular meeting.

Council approved installation of utility services to the GC, GB and GA parcels in 2021 in conjunction with the construction of a 40-unit apartment building, a modular construction containing 32 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom suites.

The project represents the first phase for lands identified to host new affordable housing in the community.

Council also directed administration to develop the borrowing bylaws required to fund Connaught site utility services, to a maximum of $3.647 million and present them at a future regular council meeting.

Administration will also allocate $350,250 in the 2021 budget for upfront project costs for the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments, subject to approval of a Rapid Housing Initiative grant applied for by the Jasper Community Housing Corporation.

At the start of council’s discussion, Coun. Bert Journault said he was opposed to spending the money to extend the services to parcel GA, noting that it was unfair to saddle the taxpayer with the costs.

“But I certainly support the proposal for the development of that area,” Journault said.

“That’s a late property. It will provide our community with a lot of houses.”

Deputy mayor Helen Kelleher-Empey noted all the work should be done simultaneously as the area had many residents and two hotels.

“I know it’s a lot of money up front but if we’re going to tear up the west end of Connaught I think we should do the work all at once,” Kelleher-Empey said.

“Let’s do the work. Let’s get it done and safe (for) the residents and the businesses on that end of town, to not be doing this piece by piece. Do it at once. It saves money in the end.”

Coun. Paul Butler agreed with Journeault initially, while Coun. Jenna McGrath pointed out that administration said parcel GA is important for technical reasons.

Chief administrative officer Bill Given said the recommendation is built on the requirement to reduce and eliminate the risk of water stagnation via a dead ending, which would make installing utilities for just sites GB and GC more challenging and costly if not impossible.

He also noted an additional challenge is about firefighting capacity.

“In order to maintain the appropriate volume of water required for fire flows for the hydrants and for high density housing, as is likely on GB and GC parcels, we need to have a high volume of water coming into the sites,” Given said.

“This is not about encouraging or supporting development on GA. It is about maintaining appropriate fire flows.”

A table showed that servicing just parcel GC would total about $1,840,434, while servicing all three sites at the same time would cost an additional $1,806,666 for a total of $3,647,100.

In contrast, if a phased approach is taken, additional incremental costs of $211,100 would be required.

By servicing all three parcels at once, $211,000 would be saved and there would be support for private sector interest in near term development on parcel GB.

As well, disruption would be minimized to Connaught Drive.

The annual debt servicing costs on a $1.8-million debenture over a 25-year term are about $97,500 and about $195,000 on a $3.6-million debenture over a 25-year term.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Council directed administration to enter into contract negotiation with Aquatera Utilities Inc. for a 10-year operating contract of the Jasper Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Since Jan. 27, 2020, the WWTP has been operated by a contracted service provider (EPCOR) under a one-year service agreement.

The agreement was extended until June 30, 2021 to complete the RFP process and ensure an orderly transition.

A standard services agreement (SSA) was included in the RFP to help proponents refine their services proposals while mitigating the risk of misunderstanding and disagreement during final contract negotiation.

“This is a substantial contract,” said Mayor Richard Ireland.

The SSA contract will be negotiated and ratified by council and utility rates will need to be adjusted annually.

Administration doesn’t anticipate an increase of utility rates for the 2021 year.

Canada Healthy Communities Initiative

Council carried a motion to approve the submission of an application to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for up to $250,000 for improvements to public spaces within the townsite.

The improvements include a streetscape plan, sidewalk improvements, planters, benches, wayfinding improvements and a patio grant.

Applications must be submitted by March 9.

Review committees will start meeting to make decisions on March 10 and all applicants will receive results by April 30.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh