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Council Misled Eastwood Residents
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It became apparent during the discussion of report PW 09-14 ESDA (East Side Development Area) Sanitary Servicing Costs at the Central Elgin Council meeting of March 10, 2014, that Council and senior municipal staff had misled the residents of Phase 2 and Phase 3 in the Eastwood subdivision when, in response to the residents' objections to the sanitary servicing of the area at this time, they told the residents they would not have to pay for the pumping station or the trunk sanitary 375mm diameter sewer that were part of the project.

At the time Council and senior staff told these residents the municipality would pick up this roughly $837,000 cost and fund it from reserves, they knew full well these same residents would later be charged the Central Elgin Connection Charge of $4,293.37 per property, restoring approximately $703,000 to the reserve fund which funded the pumping station and trunk sewer. In a misleading shell game, all the initial funding from the reserve fund is doing is ensuring the residents of Phase 2 and Phase 3 are not paying twice for the same items. Had no reserve funds been used, it would have added approximately another $2,886.00 per property to the connection charge.

In an email sent to Council by Harold Winkworth on behalf of the Eastwood residents association ahead of the March 10th meeting, he told Council that This past twelve months has been a very busy and stressful time for the people in Eastwood. The ongoing issue surrounding justification and cost of the sewer project has resulted in people selling their homes at a significant loss and moving from the area. Yes, their dreams vanished over night. Many people in the area do not sleep well due to uncertainty and the unknown. Understand, the behaviour of council throughout our challenge is viewed as unacceptable. People have been hurt and in a variety of ways ... It is not a secret that people have been devastated by both health and financial issues.

As we all know, later this year we will enter into an election. Some council members will choose to exit politics while others will once again throw their hat in the ring in an effort to become re-elected. With that being said, regardless if you are leaving politics or running in the election, Monday evening gives everyone on council an opportunity to put things back in perspective in the sense of fairness. So that I am clearly understood, you will never be able to make it right as that ship has already sailed, but you can make it better.

Winkworth also asked in the event that there is a large turnout of Eastwood Homeowners on Monday evening, I would respectfully request that Mr. Perrin's presentation be brought forward on the agenda. With the gallery of chambers packed with Eastwood residents, the presentation was brought forward immediately after the OPP 2013 year end report.

At issue is the residents being charged for the cost of over sizing the trunk sewer, and being charged $4,293.37 Central Elgin Connection Charge, which is $2705.37 over the $1,588.00 charged by the City of St. Thomas for connection to their system - the system to which these sewers are being connected. Phase 2 and Phase 3 residents argue they should pay no more than the $6,624.23 that Phase 1 residents were charged. Perrin said Phase 1 residents were charged the $4,042.00 or so the connection charge was at that time, but $5,200.00 of their cost was covered by federal and provincial grants; otherwise their cost would have been $11,800.00.

Due to declared conflicts of interest, for discussion and voting on this report Mayor Walters left Council Chambers, turning the meeting over to Deputy Mayor Marr. Councillor Russell Matthews stayed to listen but did not participate in the discussion or vote.

The purpose of report PW 09-14 ESDA (East Side Development Area) Sanitary Servicing Costs was to get Council's direction on setting the rate to be applied to the affected property owners, and give staff direction to prepare an appropriate by-law on it, for which there would then be a public meeting for public input and comment, followed by a vote by Council.

Staff calculates the total number of units contributing to the cost of the collection and trunk sanitary sewer as 290 (256 properties on the roll + 4 approved severances + 30 Comfort Inn equivalency consumption at 6,000 cubic meters of water annually).

Option 1 - Majority of Costing for trunk main borne by residential properties:
This is the option that staff proposed in its report to Council on May 13, 2013. This option is based on the premise that the East Side Servicing is a priority to service the existing residential properties with the secondary priority being the servicing of Industrial and Commercially designated Lands. If Council subscribed to this theory, the majority of the Trunk Sewer costs (the sewer east of Centennial to the pumping station) would be the responsibility of the 290 residential (residential equivalent) properties.

Trunk Sewer Cost (east of Centennial to pumping station): $797.48 + Local Collection Main cost ($595,897.20 + $699,714.60): $4,467.63 + Applicable HST: $92.67 = $5,357.78 cost per property.

Despite requests by the Eastwood residents' association under Access to Information, Bill Fehr says the municipality still has not produced the documentation proving failed residential septic systems requiring this project to be undertaken at this time, or proving that their ditch water E.coli tests resulted from failed septic systems (which would require speciated E.coli testing to prove a human source for the bacteria).

Option 2 - Majority of Costing for trunk main borne by Industrial commercial properties:
Council requested that staff consider this option at a previous meeting of Council as a result of concerns raised during the public consultation process. This option is based on the premise that the East Side Servicing is a priority to service the existing industrial and commercial properties in the area with the secondary priority being the servicing of the existing residential properties. If Council subscribed to this theory, the majority of the Trunk Sewer costs (the sewer east of Centennial to the pumping station) would be the responsibility of the Industrial and Commercially designated land in the ESDA that would drain to the trunk sewer main. This would require the municipality to front end $231,269.31 and then recover these funds in the long-term through Development Charges.

Trunk Sewer Cost (east of Centennial to pumping station): $96.10 + Local Collection Main cost ($595,897.20 + $699,714.60): $4,467.63 + Applicable HST: $80.32 = $4,644.05 cost per property. ($713.73 less than Option 1)

The Sanitary Treatment Component of the charge is not influenced by the tendering process; it is set by Council by-law and is supported by a development charges background study completed in 2009. For 2013 the sanitary treatment charge for Central Elgin is $4293.37, equivalent to the development charge set out in By-law 1202. Under agreement with the City of St. Thomas, Central Elgin has committed to collecting the City and remitting to the City of St. Thomas their charge of $1,588.00.

Option A - Collect the Central Elgin Charge of $4,293.37: When servicing the first phase of the ESDA (Elmwood, Bailey and Paul ) these residents were charged the Central Elgin Sanitary Treatment charge. The Municipality would then remit to the City of St. Thomas their charge of $1,588 and reserve the remaining $2,705.37 per property for future Sanitary Treatment Works.

Option B - Collect the City Charge Only: This would mean that property owners would be charged $1,588. This option will impact the Municipality's development charges fund for future waste water treatment facility improvements and expansion by approximately $703,000.

Stating the view that the project was undertaken primarily to service the existing residential properties, Perrin stated staff's recommendation is Option 1A, which is $5,357.78 for collection mains + $4,293.37 waste water treatment charge = a total charge of $9,651.15 per property, the most expensive option for the affected residents and effectively recovering the majority of the money expended from the reserve fund for the pumping station and trunk sewer.

Stating that she believes the project was undertaken primarily to service the existing residential properties, Councillor Martyn suggested council adopt Option 1B as being more fair, to bring it in line with the $6,624.23 Phase 1 residents were charged: Option 1B, which is $5,357.78 for collection mains + $1,588.00 waste water treatment charge = a total charge of $6,945.78 per property.

Councillor McNeil was of the opinion that Option 1B would be totally unfair to the rest of the residents of Central Elgin. Stating he preferred Option 2A ($4,644.05 for collection mains + $4,293.37 waste water treatment charge = a total charge of $8,937.42 per property), he made a motion to amend the motion on the floor to adopt Option 1A to Option 2A. As stated in the report, "This option is based on the premise that the East Side Servicing is a priority to service the existing industrial and commercial properties in the area with the secondary priority being the servicing of the existing residential properties." He said not to charge it gives these people a break at everyone else's expense to make up for the lack of grants from higher levels of government.

Deputy Mayor Marr was of the opinion that if they did not charge the full equivalent to the blended development charge that applies throughout the municipality, then developers will take Central Elgin to the OMB for lower development fees. Perrin said the 2009 study resulted in blended charges, increasing development charges in Port Stanley while lowering them in Belmont, and creating a reserve fund to be spent wherever and whenever needed in the municipality.

Councillor Martyn objected that this was not a new development but they were using development charges to determine the connection charge. Leitch said the $4,293.37 charge is the same hook up charged anywhere else in Central Elgin. Not charging it means the shortfall difference will have to be reflected (made up) in the sewer rates charged.

In a recorded vote, Council chose to direct staff to proceed with Option 2A, with Martyn voting against it, and Carr, McNeil, McFarlan and Marr voting for it. Walters and Matthews could not vote due to conflict of interest. This option means the Phase 2 and 3 residents are, in fact, paying a substantial amount of the cost of the pumping station and trunk sewer, despite being told the municipality would pick up these costs and despite the service priority being to service the existing industrial and commercial properties in the area with the secondary priority being the servicing of the existing residential properties. The public meeting and by-law to adopt the charge will follow at a later date.


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