'It's been kept very secret': Questions arise over new $4M water tower in Shediac

Residents say the project wasn't part of the town's 2017 budget, and they wonder if it's really serving the growing needs of residents or the campgrounds that are multiplying in the area.

Residents question timing of construction during controversy surrounding campgrounds in the area

Resident Arthur Melanson wonders why there was no announcement made about a new $4 million water tower in Shediac. (CBC)

Some residents in Shediac are raising concerns about a new $4 million water tower, saying the project came out of nowhere.

Construction started last month on Ohio Road, across the street from Camping Oceanic.

But the project wasn't part of the town's 2017 budget and residents wonder if it's really serving their needs, or those of the campgrounds multiplying in the area.

Residents question why an investment of that size didn't warrant any kind of public announcement, and wonder if the town isn't trying to dodge questions.

"It's been kept very secret," said resident Arthur Melanson.

"The only thing that's there right now that's a big development in place is for the campground. So is that tank there to supply the campground? And if it is, why are the Shediac taxpayers paying for that?"

Campgrounds nearby 

Camping Oceanic, a 340-site trailer park across the road from the construction site, recently announced a 400-site expansion, shortly after it received money in a confidential settlement.

Down the road is the future site of Shediac Camping — the controversial project that used to belong to MLA Victor Boudreau before he gave up his stake, estimated at about 700 sites for trailers.

The town said construction began on Oct. 18 at the site on Ohio Road. (CBC)

In the project's review last July, the province pointed out that promoters miscalculated how much drinking water campground users would need, and asked for a letter from the town confirming it would have the capacity to accommodate the campground's needs.

Melanson thinks the timing of the new water tower is no coincidence.

In the town's five-year capital projects budget issued last year, construction of a new water tower wasn't planned until 2021.

"Why the rush into this?" asked Melanson.

Taxpayer money

Jacques LeBlanc, mayor of Shediac, refused to do an interview with CBC News. He said construction of a new water tower didn't constitute news.

In an email, a town clerk told CBC that Shediac was getting the money from a 20-year loan from the provincial government.

Bill Belliveau believes the campsites are significant factors behind the new water tower being built on Ohio Road. (CBC)

The town issued a statement to the media on Monday explaining the need for the water tower.

"Unlike what is being suggested by CBC, the water tower is not being built to serve the future needs of a campground," the statement said.

"It is however being built as part of a long-term plan to serve the needs of all users of the municipal water system. "

The statement did not address why the tower was not in the 2017 budget. It also did not address why its construction timeline was moved up from the 2021 date set out in the five-year capital projects budget.

Bill Belliveau, another resident, said he believes taxpayers deserve to know if their money is being used to help those campgrounds.

"They're both private enterprises and they're both, as I suspect, would be significant water consumers," said Belliveau.

"There was nothing in the budget or the town plan for a new water tower at this time, and certainly not in this part of town. It shouldn't be a burden of taxpayers," he said.

The town said construction on the water tower is scheduled to be completed by August of 2018.