The town's multi-million dollar East Side Servicing Local Improvement Project is in serious jeopardy of being put on hold for at least a year after a petition was presented to the town on Friday afternoon.
“The cost being proposed is far too much,” said petition co-organizer Rick Scown. “It looks like the 280 of us on the east side are going to pay the whole cost of the sewer and water, and the sewer and water that is being set up is set up to handle 15,000 people.
“If the cost was suitable to the 280 over there we wouldn't mind having it, but not at that cost. There are a number of people on the east side who would lose their property and have their businesses shut down because of it, so that's why we've done this petition.”
The petition is aimed specifically at the local improvement bylaw, which has already received first reading. It states that the Town of Sundre council moves to apply a $24,000 Local Improvement Levy to the properties on the east side of the Red Deer River that are taxed residential and a $1,329.87/front metre Local Improvement Levy to the properties that are taxed commercial/industrial for the East Side Services project for Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III.
Town officials will scrutinize the petition over the next week and if it is found to be valid, it will bring a halt to the project.
According to the Municipal Government Act, for a local improvement petition to be valid, it must be signed by two-thirds of the affected property owners who represent at least one half of the total assessment of the affected area.
For the east side project, that means at least 82 property owners with $12,274,805 assessment values must petition to make it valid.
“If it's a successful petition then we can plan and do other things for a year, but we can't do any construction,” said Sundre interim CAO Wanda Watson Neufeld. “We could represent it (the local improvement bylaw) in one year's time, when people again could petition, and if it's a successful petition again, then the town can't go forward for three years.”
More than 90 signed the petition handed to the town on Friday, said Scown.
The east side project calls for the provision of water, wastewater, storm water, fire hydrants, paving, curb and gutter to properties on the east side of the Red Deer River in the town of Sundre.
The plan covers all parcels of land on 7th Street N.E., 1 Avenue N.E., Main Avenue East, 5 Street S.E., 6 Street S.E, and 11 Street N.E.
Sundre Mayor Annette Clews said she was disappointed that the petition has been brought forward.
“I had hoped that it wouldn't have come forward, because we have utilized grants and a lot of town surpluses to make this project more affordable,” said Clews. “If the petition is deemed valid then we do have to wait one year before we can redo it (project), which means we can't guarantee that the prices will be as low as we've been able to get them today.”
A special council meeting has already been scheduled for March 14 for a possible vote on second reading of the local improvement bylaw.
“If the petition is valid we cannot go ahead with it (vote),” she said.
Petition organizers hosted a public open house on Feb. 28.
In a letter announcing that open house, organizers cited a number of concerns about the project, including the following (quoted from letter):
• The outrageous cost of the water and sewer;
• The actual cost to put these services in to connect the homes and businesses from the road are at the owners' expense;
• The costs that we have presently been quoted are based on engineered services, not contracted bid costs;
Once town officials examine the petition this week, petition organizers will be notified if it is valid or not valid, said Watson Neufeld.
"If the petition is deemed valid then we do have to wait one year before we can redo it (project), which means we can't guarantee that the prices will be as low as we've been able to get them today." Mayor Annette Clews.