Quadra Islanders who said ‘yes’ to sewers two years ago could get their properties hooked up to the service as early as next summer.
That’s because the Quathiaski Cove sewer project is one of 35 local government infrastructure projects awarded funding under a brand-new federal/provincial grant program.
Dave Leitch, CAO of the regional district, said that will allow staff to issue a Request for Proposal – likely in early December – to find a contractor to undertake construction of the project which will add roughly 45 to 47 new Quathiaski Cove properties to the existing sewer system.
Leitch said the funding, which is coming out of the new Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, is more than what the regional district had applied for in April under the New Building Canada grant fund.
“It’s fantastic,” Leitch said. “We actually received more than we expected. It’s a huge bonus and a great financial advantage.”
The funding came in higher than expected thanks to the federal government following through on a commitment to help local governments struggling to deal with aging infrastructure.
Instead of the usual one-third from each of the federal, provincial and local governments, under the new program, the federal government will put up 50 per cent of project costs, and with the provincial government retaining its commitment of 33 per cent, that leaves local governments with only 17 per cent of the costs.
As a member of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities executive, Quadra Island Director Jim Abram said he and his fellow directors had been pushing the federal government to up the ante.
Abram said he was “thrilled” when the federal Liberals announced that not only were they going to up their contribution, but that the Quathiaski Cove sewer project would be one of the first to benefit from the new criteria.
“I am just so totally excited,” Abram said. “The first thing I said when I found out was ‘yahoo.’ It’s unreal.”
It’s been a long time coming for Abram who has been trying to get the sewer system expanded on Quadra for seven years and in the process, lower the cost for those already on the system.
Residential basic rates have soared from $250 in 1999 to $510 in 2015. In 2012, rates were as high as $692 which prompted affected property owners to petition the regional district.
Abram has always maintained, however, that adding additional properties onto the system will lower the costs as they will share in the cost of operating and maintaining the system through user fees.
The expansion has been on the books for two years after Quadra Islanders gave their approval through a referendum in July, 2014. The regional district ran into problems, however, earlier this year when construction bids came in over $900,000 – greater than the regional district’s budget.
Under the new funding program, though, Abram said the regional district will save “a quarter of a million dollars of local money.”
Leitch confirmed that under the new funding formula, the federal government will provide $684,425 of the project costs, while the province will contribute $451,720, leaving the regional district to make up the remaining $232,705.
Abram said it also means the regional district won’t have to spend the $450,000 to $500,000 worth of Gas Tax funds that were pegged for the sewer project in an effort to keep property owners’ costs down.
“Now that we don’t have to use that money, it will go back into the bank and be available to us for all the other wonderful things we want to do on Quadra Island,” Abram said.
“This is phenomenal news,” he added. “It’s a big deal to an electoral area like mine. I’m really, really pleased.”
Leitch said he expects that if the Request for Proposals is successful that construction of the sewer expansion could begin in February or March of next year, which means property owners could potentially hook up to the sewer system by summer or fall of 2017.