Alix village council decided to move ahead on rehabilitation to part of its lagoon, although the fate of future upgrades is still up in the air. The decision was made at council’s Aug. 4 regular meeting.
MPE Engineering representative Chris George appeared before council to explain the Alix lagoon’s current condition and its unusual odyssey towards a brighter future.
After providing councillors with a map of the site plan, George stated a grant was applied for in November 2018 for much-needed rehab on the lagoon cells.
George stated at the meeting cell 6 “had completely dried up.” He said MPE Engineering visited the site and confirmed the south side was dry.
This was preceded by a complete investigation in 2017 where holes were bored to examine the condition of the lagoon substructure, and cell 6 saw three to 12 metre deep holes bored.
More holes were also bored on the south side of cell 5.
When the bore holes for cell 6 were examined, George noted, they revealed some sand which he noted is not an adequate liner.
As he observed that these were symptoms of an insufficient clay liner, MPE Engineering’s recommendation was to replace cell 6’s liner.
George noted in the meeting the price tag to rehab the lagoon, including both cells 5 and 6, would be about $3.2 million.
However, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White noted later in the meeting the village had originally received an infrastructure study in 2017 that cell 6 be rehabbed first; cell 5 required less work and would be less expensive.
During discussion it was stated work on cell 5 would be just over $800,000, with the village applying for provincial and federal government grants to cover this.
The village received just over $600,000 for the project and White said the village assumed Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding could be used to pay the balance.
In an email clarification to the ECA Review Aug. 5 White stated, “The 2017 infrastructure study said cell 6 was the priority and had an estimated project cost of $619,000. That was the grant amount applied for, but then the engineers recommended a full lagoon overhaul based on the results of the 2017 geotechnical study at a value of $3.2 million a few days after the application deadline.
“It was too late to change the grant application at the federal level and the grant was approved in January 2020 for $619,000.
After grant approval was received the engineers recommended changing the project from cell 6 to cell 5 due to the likelihood of seepage from cell 5. C
ouncil approved this change, but due to inflation from the time of the original grant application, the estimated project cost had gone up to just over $800,000.”
Apparently just a few days after the grant was applied for, MPE Engineering forwarded a geotechnical study to the village describing cell 6’s sand issues and changed their recommendation.
White stated the village tried to change their grant application to the much higher dollar amount for the complete lagoon project and the provincial government seemed amenable to this, but the federal government declined any further funding.
George confirmed in the meeting the current grant funding was insufficient to rehab cell 6 and to date no more funding has been obtained.
George also stated MPE Engineering was concerned that rehabbing cell 6 first would place pressure on cell 5. He noted MPE Engineering recommended approaching the local MLA and various provincial ministers to lobby for more funding for cell 6 and proceed with the current funding and rehab cell 5.
George stated if council approved work on cell 5 at the meeting, MPE would begin the tendering process the next day with plans to complete the project this summer and fall.
White also pointed out another problem. If cell 5 was rehabbed, the CAO stated, it would have to be drained, and with cell 6 dried up, there were concerns the liner may leak into the ground. She said the village’s “best bet” was to ask local business Rahr Malting, which has its own lagoon cells, to help the village by taking the water while cell 5 is rehabbed.
It was noted that, if rehabbed, cell 5’s capacity would be slightly reduced. White also stated though that Alix’s lagoon, on paper, has a capacity for about 1,500 people; Alix counts 734 residents.
Mayor Rob Fehr stated it’s getting late in the year to start tendering construction projects, but the costs could climb next year.
George responded he estimated a three-week tender period.
Councillors approved by resolution that the village move ahead on tendering the Alix lagoon cell 5 project.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter