Amherstburg moving ahead with major forcemain project



By Ron Giofu


A major infrastructure project is proceeding with that project that has been said to allow for hundreds of homes to be built in the Golfview and Kingsbridge areas.

Town council awarded a tender to J&J Lepera Infrastructures with the work to be done to upgrade pump stations in the area and to construct a forcemain to divert wastewater to the Amherstburg sewage treatment plant.

Total cost of this phase of the project is $8.9 million but a developer is contributing approximately $917,000 for pump station improvements. This is the second of three phases of the Edgewater Diversion Project.

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt indicated that is the normal course of action as developers are responsible for moving sewage while the town is required to receive the sewage.

“That’s what the project is doing,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt told town council at a special meeting last Wednesday afternoon that he couldn’t estimate a work schedule until after the project was awarded but hoped work crews would be in full swing by mid-August. Installing the forcemain will involve tearing up Front Road North (County Road 20) from roughly the Edgewater area to Alma St. It is expected to reduce the highway from four lanes to two during the construction period.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline to get it done,” said Hewitt.

The timeline to complete the forcemain is Nov. 30, he stated, with the pump station due for completion by March 1, 2019. Kingsbridge developer Mike Dunn told town council he will be able to proceed with 700 homes once this phase of the project is completed.

“That’s good news for the town,” responded Councillor Rick Fryer.

Hewitt indicated that there could be “other opportunities for development” for the lands in the Edgewater sewage area other than Kingsbridge.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the project cost was coming in higher than projected. Hewitt stated the town received two tenders for the work.

“It tells you the remainder of the contractors are very busy and unable to tender the work,” said Hewitt.

Comparisons were also done of similar projects in other municipalities, he added, and that costs tended to come in 15-20 per cent higher than original estimates.

As part of his written report to town council, Hewitt stated: “The Town has invested significant dollars to upgrade and expand the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and upgrade the Pump Station No. 2. The recommended works in this report are the final steps to allow the Edgewater Lagoons to be decommissioned and to utilize the capacity built into the treatment plant. By not moving forward on this project the Town could risk potential fines and additional costs from the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) for not addressing the issues with respect to the early discharges at the Edgewater lagoons. The Edgewater Lagoons are currently at capacity. Not approving this project will end future residential development in this area until sewage capacity is increased. This project will allow for residential development and growth to move forward in this area, specifically North Kingsbridge, which has been at a standstill for many years due to the lack of capacity in the Edgewater system.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it was big news for the town, stating at least 700 new homes are coming to the town.

“It’s definitely some nice closure on a very big project that has literally held back the town and development,” said DiCarlo. “I think the big news is really the homes.”

DiCarlo stated that while there have been some new builds in the area, developers have had restrictions on what can be constructed. He is hopeful the forcemain will be operational by the end of the year.

“We’re definitely going to get on it ASAP,” said the mayor.

The Edgewater lagoons should be decommissioned next year with the estimated cost of that phase being just over $1 million.

“We have made major investments in water infrastructure,” said DiCarlo.

The overall cost of the project, including all three phases, is approximately $14 million. Grant funding received in 2015 provided $5.8 million with $1.8 million being used on the current phase that will be done this year.

Water and wastewater rates to see minimal increases



By Ron Giofu


Water and wastewater rates are on the rise in the Town of Amherstburg.

Town council has approved a five per cent increase to the water rate and a 1.3 per cent increase to the wastewater increase. Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated in a report to town council that the increases are in accordance with the long-term financial stability plan outlined in the town’s asset management plan.

The water rate increase would translate into an average annual billing increase from $458 to $467, or a $9 average increase. The wastewater increase would see bills rise, on average, from $779 to $785, or $6.

“Based on the recommended user rate adjustments, the average consumer of both water and wastewater in the town would see a household effect of $15 a year, or 4 cents a day,” Rousseau said in his report to town council.

Rousseau stated in his report that one of the main cost drivers for water is the operation and maintenance of the Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant.

“When our water costs are compared to other municipalities who operate their own plants (Essex and Lakeshore), we are actually the lowest of the three municipalities,” Rousseau stated in his report. “Our water distribution network is very large, servicing homes well into Essex, causing additional costs to provide standard maintenance.”

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

The town is currently operating six separate wastewater facilities across the town, Rousseau added, with those all requiring operating and maintenance costs.

“The recent reconstruction of the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant has also added additional pressure to the rate,” he stated.

According to Rousseau’s report, when water and wastewater charges are compared to other municipalities around Windsor-Essex County, Amherstburg ranks fourth in water and second in wastewater. Rousseau used base charges and volumetric charges, the latter being based on 20 cubic metres per month.

However, Rousseau estimated the total billing amounts based on his figures, Amherstburg had the second highest billing total in the area.

The revenue and expenses for the water budget are $4,699,000 and $6,255,775 for the wastewater budget.

Councillor Diane Pouget said council is obligated to ensure the town has clean water, stating the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and the town’s departments “do a tremendous job” keep the town’s water safe.

Pouget said the total amount of the increase is $15 per year.

The Amherstburg wastewater treatment plant.

“I think it’s a small price to pay to make sure our facilities are up-to-date,” she said.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed the town can be proud of the work that is being done, noting the feedback from people he receives is that “they love the taste of our water.”

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed, stating she can’t taste the difference between tap water and bottled water.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original story and the story in the June 6 print issue stated that Councillor Diane Pouget said it was a $15 per month increase. The online story has been changed to correctly reflect that Councillor Pouget said it was a $15 per year increase. The RTT apologizes for the error.)

Water and wastewater rates to rise slightly in Amherstburg


By Ron Giofu


Water and wastewater rates are on the rise two per cent and one per cent respectively in Amherstburg but the town is stating that sounds worse than what it is.

The water budget of nearly $9.4 million will be funded through $638,000 from working capital, a $3.7 million grant and $5 million in new debentures with the $1.369 million wastewater budget being funded through $542,000 in operating capital, $348,150 in grant funding and $479,350 from the wastewater capital reserve.

The water and wastewater rate increases will translate into the average user paying an extra $9 more this year, said director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau.

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

The Amherstburg Water Treatment Plant

In his written report to council, Rousseau stated: “The projected two per cent increase in water would result in an average annual billing increase from $450 to $456. The projected one per cent increase in wastewater would result in an average annual billing increase from $772 to $775. The combined effect to the average consumer of both water and wastewater in the town will see an annual household effect of $9 a year, or two cents a day.”

Rousseau indicated the coming years will call for the replacement of the water treatment plan, a $30 million expenditure. The town has to take steps to bolster reserves to mitigate the impact of that expenditure, he stated.

Wastewater plantWEB

The reason for the proposed increases is to provide long term stability to building both water and wastewater capital programs as well as lifecycle replacement funding that will help ensure the replacement and expansion of both the water and wastewater systems. The increases agree to the long-term financial stability plan outlined in the Town’s draft asset management plan,” he added in his report to town council.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned the timing of the budgets, noting that it is late June and that “it’s after the fact” for council to have more extensive dialogue on it.

“At this point, it’s difficult to have any input. We’ve already spent the money,” he said.

Rousseau called it “a fair observation” but said it was delayed due to the town’s desire to bring the budgets forward with the asset management plan. He said after the meeting the consultant the town is using on the plan is tied up with other municipalities so the plan was unable to be presented at the same time as the budgets.

Town, OCWA entering into new agreement for water and wastewater treatment systems



By Ron Giofu


Amherstburg will be sticking with the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) to manage its water and wastewater systems.

The town chose to keep OCWA and entered into a new agreement last Monday night when town council passed a bylaw authorizing such a move. Todd Hewitt, the town’s manager of engineering and operations, stated in a report to council that the previous agreement was to have expired Dec. 31 but a three-month extension brought the new expiration date to March 31.

Hewitt said an RFP for the services was put out to “ensure that the town was receiving the most competitive price possible.” Two proposals were received with OCWA being ranked first when the bids were judged by the evaluation committee. That committee consisted of public works senior staff including the director, the manager of engineering and the manager of environmental services with the corporate services director also being involved.

Wastewater plantWEB

The five-year contract has significant savings for the town, according to Hewitt’s report.

“When you compare the five year contract costs to the current cost projected over five years, the contract costs alone result in a savings of $1,186,132.43,” Hewitt said in his report.

Hewitt stated the town saves over $111,600 in the first year of the contract with annual savings in years two to five ranging from $248,000 to $289,000 as compared to current costs. Inspections and certifications are now included in OCWA’s base fee as opposed to the town paying for them directly at a yearly cost of $13,000, Hewitt said, with janitorial costs at the sewage plant also now included in the contract.

Outdoor summer maintenance is also included in the contract as opposed to the town paying for it, Hewitt reported, with snow and ice removal also now being OCWA’s responsibility.

“In the previous contract the town paid a 15 per cent service fee on any minor or major maintenance that was completed at the facilities. Administration was able to negotiate the elimination of the service fee on the first $300,000 of maintenance, resulting in an approximate $45,000 savings each year,” Hewitt stated in his report “Any work beyond this threshold will be subject to a 10 per cent service fee, which will result in a 5 per cent savings from the prior 15 per cent.”

Hewitt told council members that OCWA likes working in Amherstburg and he thanked them for their efforts in helping the town save money. Council members were similarly pleased with Councillor Diane Pouget commenting that the “savings are phenomenal” with Councillor Rick Fryer stating that “administration did a great job” in securing the new deal.

Town council approves five per cent increases for both water and wastewater rates


The Amherstburg wastewater treatment plant.

The Amherstburg wastewater treatment plant.

By Ron Giofu


Town council has adopted five per cent increases for the water and wastewater rates for the coming year.

The rates were passed at a budget meeting held last Tuesday. Director of finance/treasurer Justin Rousseau said the passage of the two rates is consistent with the plan adopted by the previous council.

“The council is taking the stance of following the five-year plan of five per cent increases,” said Rousseau.

An average water bill in Amherstburg is roughly $420 annually, said Rousseau. With a five per cent increase, he said that would see the overall bill go up to approximately $429.

The average wastewater rate is currently $745 per year and the five per cent increase would see that go up to $753, he added.

“We’re not talking significant increases,” said Rousseau.

Water and wastewater rate increases often result in water conservation, he added.

There are roughly $30-32 million in capital projects proposed over the next decade, he noted.

While this year is the final year of the previous council’s five-year plan, Rousseau a noted strategic financial plan administration is proposing calls for possible increases in the 3.25 per cent range in future years. Savings could be possible, however, if the town elects to bring services they currently subcontract for in-house, Rousseau noted.

Town administration recommended the continuation of the 2011 plan as it “will address the short- term needs of the water and wastewater budgets of the town based on the assumptions used in 2011 to establish the plan.”

The administrative report added: “It is important to note that at the time the plan was developed, administration did not include a long-term strategy to establish a reserve for water and wastewater that would address future capital infrastructure challenges.”

The 2015 water operating budget that council approved consists of $4,480,000 in revenues and $4,186,974 in expenses with a capital budget of $595,000. Council also approved the 2015 wastewater operating budget of $6,097,695 in revenues and $5,901,094 in expenses with a wastewater capital budget of $3,768,000.