Fighting for priority
Paradise is whittling down its water & sewer list, but not fast enough for Harcourt Heights resident Kevin French
By Craig Westcott | The Shoreline
A long time Paradise resident who wants to sell his house as part of his retirement plans is furious with the Town for not moving his street ahead on its priority list for sewerage infrastructure.
“I’ve been here 38 years on Harcourt Heights in Paradise and I still don’t have any sewer,” said Kevin French. “I built this property in 1978 and I built a home here. Really, we’re just being jacked around… We should be entitled to get this.”
Most of Harcourt Road does have a sewer line, except for the end where French and two other families live. When the sewer line was installed some 20 years ago, there wasn’t enough money to add a lift station needed to service French’s end of the street.
French said no one except for one councillor will talk to him about the issue and he has been told by Mayor Dan Bobbett the cost of extending a sewerage line to his part of the street would be some $200,000.
The hook-up fee for sewerage in Paradise is $5,000 per home, meaning it would be years, if ever, before the town would ever recover the cost of servicing the area, though French insists adding a line would spark housing construction there, which would add new residential taxes.
French said the Town should extend the sewer line this coming year when it makes upgrades, including water and sewer installations, on nearby Clearview Heights as part of the new roundabout construction. Clearview runs parallel to Harcourt. “It would be cheaper to do it now,” said French. “They wouldn’t have to bring the equipment back in.”
French said a former mayor took money from the water and sewer budget and spent it on other projects in the town. He doesn’t see why the Town can’t move around funds to undertake the work on his street. “And (Mayor Dan) Bobbett right now is putting a roundabout down on McNamara Drive,” said French.
“Now what reason is it that money can’t be re-routed to me and several other streets around the town here to upgrade the town?”
When contacted, Mayor Bobbett said are 16 streets left on the priority list, whittled down from 47 some two decades ago.
“We’ve been chipping away at it year after year,” said Bobbett. “But that list is done up as a priority list in order and very few times at all have you ever diverted from that list.”
Bobbett noted that for many years, the part of Harcourt Road that French lives on wasn’t even on the list. That’s because it didn’t men the criteria under the ‘Limits of Service’ rules set by the provincial government for funding municipal capital works projects. The Town did add Harcourt Heights to the list some six years ago, Bobbett said, following a request from French. And last year, while he was still Municipal Affairs minister, Eddie Joyce, eliminated the ‘Limits of Service’ criteria altogether. But that hasn’t changed things enough to move Harcourt Heights up from number 15 on the priority list to the anywhere near the top.
“Now that they’re on the list, obviously we’ll try to get them done,” said Bobbett.
He pointed out the Town did look into the cost of adding French’s area to the Clearview Heights project, but the estimated cost turned out to be too high. The figure was almost enough to do another street if the Town had funding from the provincial government for it, the mayor said.
“It was far too expensive,” Bobbett said. “If it was only a small amount of money we could probably hook on while we’re in the area. So, we did look at it and we did do some cost estimates on it, but at the time we just couldn’t do it. The gentleman is saying now,’ Why not?’ But it comes back again to the priority list.”
Bobbett noted that of the 16 streets remaining on the list, four saw work start in 2018, which will finish this year. The timelines for completing the other streets depend on how much multi-year capital works funding the Town gets from the provincial government in coming years, including this spring’s budget in February or March.
“That’s when we’ll know how much money we’ll have for water and sewer, road widening, possible recreation improvements, all of that,” said the mayor. “Like I told the gentleman the other night in the council chambers, it has to be a balanced approach, you just can’t have all of one thing. We’re a growing town and you have to grow every part of the town, whether that be the roads, the recreation, or the services. Water and sewer is still on our priority list and we’re chipping away at it all the time… We will get there. Now there are only 12 (streets) left on the list and he is on one of those 12.”
That explanation is unlikely to satisfy French.
“I’ve got a fair-sized home here and at my age right now I’d like to sell my home and downsize and get a smaller home,” French said, adding his neighbours are also retirement age. “It seems like we’re kicking a dead horse. My other neighbours gave up fighting on this, they just got frustrated and gave up.”