The issue of who pays for upgrades or repairs of sewer infrastructure on private property came to a head at the Village of Alix regular council meeting Sept. 1.
The issue centred around three properties along 49th Street, a route that was the focus of sewer infrastructure upgrades this summer.
A memo in the agenda package from village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White listed issues with the street’s old, failing infrastructure and plans to fix it dating back to 2017 with the help of project engineer MPE.
“Letters were sent to properties in the area affected by the 49th Street project dig site stating the village intended to go ahead with the project the summer of 2020,” stated the memo, noting more information about the project was placed on utility bills in 2020.
The CAO stated in her memo to council the condition of 49th Street’s sewer line was costing money.
“Resident of 49th Street requested reimbursement for sewer line freeze up expenses,” stated White’s memo, adding this happened in 2019.
“This address had previously had freeze ups in 2011, 2016, 2018 and 2019. The resident knew what the problem was and took steps to fix it, but no video was done of the line this time so resolution #100/19 stated the village would pay half of costs for thawing the line.”
Further, White’s memo stated that in August 2020 a meeting was held at the village office with staff along with three property owners.
“The meeting was to discuss these three properties that have a sewer connection off the back of the lots and that the village would no longer be maintaining that line after the 49th Street project was completed,” stated White’s memo.
She also noted “There are no utility right-of-way agreements on title where the (old) line runs. We are unaware of who originally installed the line or when it may have been done as no physical or digital records of the line could be found.”
One of those three, Curt Peterson, was at the Sept. 1 council meeting to ask the village to help pay costs of new sewer hook-ups that he said went over and above what he’d been notified of.
The Henke family was also present representing the other two owners.
Peterson stated he was representing the nearby church, one of the three properties listed. He presented councillors with an invoice for final costs of the new sewer line, “…which should never have been necessary,” he said.
Peterson was obviously unhappy with extra costs and stated someone, somewhere made a mistake as there seemed to be confusion over how deep the work needed to go but he also stated that he knew the work had to be done since he, himself, was on village council.
Peterson stated the church’s extra costs were just over $3,700 and he wanted to know if compensation from the village was available.
Mayor Rob Fehr asked if grant money was available, and Peterson answered he asked about one grant, the Community Facility Enhancement Grant, but it can’t be applied to completed projects.
In her report White noted several grant options that may have helped the church, including a COVID program but Peterson said all deadlines for those already passed.
Representatives of MPE were also at the council meeting and stated the new lines went in at the minimum allowable slope according to Alberta Environment guidelines; they said the church received a six inch line at one per cent slope.
The engineers stated there’s still positive drainage, especially for an older lot.
Coun. Ed Cole asked the engineers what a minimum positive slope would be. They responded it can sometimes be as low as 0.4 or 0.3 per cent with a four inch pipe.
Cole stated he would like to do something to help the three property owners, but Coun. Barb Gilliat stated she wanted more information about how the situation occurred before approving funds.
White noted if the village granted funds to the three property owners, there are other property owners on that street that paid $2,000 each to hook up to the line.
Mayor Fehr stated, according to law, the village is responsible for bringing the sewer system to a property line and he hesitated to pay costs on private property.
Coun. Tim Besuijen asked the Henke family members what their costs had been and their responses were “…probably $6,000” and “$6,300.”
Cole made the motion to grant each of the three property owners $2,000 each to help with the sewer line costs, but it was defeated in a 2 to 3 vote, Cole and Besuijen in favour, Fehr, Gilliat and Coun. Vicki Soltermann opposed.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter