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Green Lake residents settle on sewer deal

Residents at Green Lake could soon be getting the sewers they've been demanding for 36 years, and at a reduced cost.

Nanaimo city council voted Monday to cover the entire $3.2-million cost of installing sewer services on public land instead of a proposed 80/20 split that would have required Green Lake's 107 property owners to fork over an additional $640,000.

Katherine Miller, a Green Lake resident who has lobbied council to install the sewers on the public's dime, said the decision is like a breath of fresh air.

"It's what we've wanted all along," said Miller. "It's the responsibility of the city to provide the sewers down the public roads."

Green Lake was amalgamated into the city in 1975 and residents have waited to be hooked up to sanitary sewer services ever since.

Still, landowners will have to pay an $1,800 connection fee, for which council has provided a 12-month grace period once the sewers are installed, as well as for the work which includes pumps, pipes and holding tanks to be installed on their properties.

Tom Hickey, general manager of community services, said the average cost for property owners to have connections completed will be about $7,500.

"Some properties will be significantly more challenging, like blasting rock for example, so they will be more expensive, and some will be less," said Hickey.

Without the city covering the cost of the main line, Miller estimates her costs would have soared to more than $15,000, instead of what she estimates will be half that.

"Once [the sewers] come it means a lot of us with larger properties will be able to subdivide a smaller piece off and stay there, which is my intention. Once I retire, I wouldn't have been able to afford to live on my two-acre lot, but now I can," said Miller. "I can afford the cost over a period of time."

Council agreed that property owners at Green Lake have waited long enough to benefit from sewer service. Construction could begin as soon as next year.

"Thirty-six years is way too long," said Coun. Fred Pattje.

Coun. Jim Kipp said waiting longer would only increase the cost.

"It could have been done a long time ago for a fraction of the cost," he said.

Miller and other residents are also concerned with the health of Green Lake.

Recent provincial water tests suggest higher than acceptable amounts of phosphorous, nitrogen and fecal coliform in the lake due to leaking septic tanks, and the overall health of the lake has deteriorated as a result. Miller said once sewers are installed, a remediation plan could be implemented.

Council's decision could set an expensive precedent for taxpayers. Other Nanaimo areas not serviced by sanitary sewers include 25 lots at Stephenson Point, 125 lots at Jingle Pot, 20 lots at Western Acres, 51 lots at Western Acres East and four lots on Maki Road. If the city decides to extend those property owners the same courtesy, taxpayers could be on the hook for a total of $19.1 million.

Green Lake has taken priority over other areas due to the concern over leaking septic fields, many of which are at or beyond their 35-year lifespan.

"The city is getting more than 100 hookups for around $3 million with respect to Green Lake," said Miller. "The other properties will cost around $15 million. With respect to a precedence, I guess they'll have to take it on just like we took this one on. There isn't necessarily a blanket policy."

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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