West side sewer system extension going ahead

Project has some opposition

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

The contract for the first phase of a sewer expansion project to the west side of Caribou Trail was awarded last week. The project remains controversial – at least within town council – and the vote was split.

The report for council had the results of the project tender, with a recommendation to give the job to the lowest valid bid, by a company called Elite Site Services. Its bid of $664,850 was slightly higher than another one, but that bid wasn’t compliant.

The town had budgeted $600,000 for the project in 2023.

The new low-pressure sewer line will service industrial lots that have been operating for many years on the western edge of town without sewer.

This project had been the subject of considerable debate and disagreement among councillors, with a minority being opposed, for various reasons. Before the vote, councillor Brice Ferguson made a point of re-stating his opposition “for numerous reasons.” He didn’t repeat the reasons, but one of them – expressed at an earlier council meeting – had to do with his dislike of the idea of the town forcing people to hook up to the sewer system.

Councillor Steve Adams also isn’t a fan of the proposal, calling it “crazy” that all property owners in town would be on the hook for the cost of providing sewer services to a few property owners.

Councillor Shawn Gramlich disputed that. It’s coming from reserves, he said.

“We still have to replace that,” countered Adams.

The debate at previous meetings had been about (or partly about) whether the general tax base should have to help pay for a service that would only benefit a few properties. Mayor Frankie Ward was the leading proponent of the ‘yes’ view on this, and she hadn’t changed her position either.

“Sewer is a basic service,” she said. “We’re rectifying a decades-old problem.”

Ward also noted that the town’s utility reserve is healthy, “one of the few that is.”

Council voted in favour of awarding the contract as recommended, 4 – 2, with Ferguson and Adams opposed.

The contractor’s plan, according to the report in council’s agenda package, is to start work in late September, and finish by Oct. 31. The work involves the installation of a low-pressure sewer main to serve lots west of Caribou Trail, south of the railway tracks. It includes the installation of service stubs up to the property line.

The affected lots, in purple.
Image courtesy of the Town of Slave Lake

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