Parrsboro residents given until January to decide how to pay for cost overrun on sewer project

·2 min read

The Municipality of the County of Cumberland is asking residents of Parrsboro, N.S., to decide by early January how they want to pay for a $4.4-million cost overrun on a sewer project in the community.

The choices for now are a $4,900 lump-sum payment or $345 annually for 20 years.

A recent letter from the municipality has upset people, according to Lloyd Smith, who was a candidate in the October municipal election.

"Parrsboro consists of seniors trying to keep their houses," said Smith. "An extra $345 a year on top of their sewer bills, on top of all their other bills, is a large sum of money."

The choice is also not sitting well with many people in the area because they believe unnecessary extensions drove up the cost of the project.

"They put people on that did not need to be put on," said Dawn McCully, "We all have functioning [septic systems] where I live. If we have to we'll move because this is just ridiculous."

'There was no consultation, there was no heads-up'

In 2019, Parrsboro residents were given a $957 sewage charge on their property tax bills without any warning — roughly $650 more than the normal amount.

McCully has a new sewer line going by her house but the house is not connected.

Ottawa required that a new treatment plant and sewer lines be constructed in Parrsboro by 2020. But Smith said the original project estimated just over 200 sewer customers.

"Now the municipality is saying they have more than 400," said Smith. "There was extra pipe put in the ground and I don't know why. It's irresponsible."

McCully and many of her neighbours believe the entire cost overrun should be shared by everyone who lives in Cumberland County and not just Parrsboro residents.

"There was no consultation, there was no heads-up," said McCully. "They just went ahead with an expansion and they had to know that somebody was going to have to pay for it."

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The issue was raised at the November county council meeting. Murray Scott, the newly elected mayor, said a review of the project is underway.

"We've asked for all the documents around what happened," said Scott. "How large was the project originally? Did it grow? How did it grow?"

Scott said municipal finance officials are also looking into whether any other repayment options can be offered to residents.

He does not believe Cumberland County can get any more financial help from the provincial or federal governments because the project is completed.

"Doesn't mean we can't try," said Scott. "But I'm not holding out a lot of hope."