Stratford council holding out for better sewage deal

Stratford still doesn’t have a plan for its sewage waste — even though the town’s 2017 budget includes more than $8.5 million for the cost of building a system to send its waste to Charlottetown.

Finance chair said town will wait as long as it takes to come up with 'cost neutral' solution

Stratford town council wants to replace the town's sewage lagoon, but said the current offer from Charlottetown for treating the town's waste there is too expensive. (Julia Cook/CBC)

Stratford still doesn't have a plan for its sewage waste — even though the town's 2017 budget includes $8.6 million for the cost of building a system to send its waste to Charlottetown.

Stratford Town council passed the budget Wednesday evening, which includes the money for the construction of a system to send waste to Charlottetown to be treated at the wastewater facility there.

But council said it will not give the go-ahead for the project based on the current offer on the table from Charlottetown.

"The costs are just more than we can handle at this point in time," said Deputy Mayor Randy Cooper, who is also chair of the town's finance and technology committee.

Months of discussion

In September town council decided it wanted to build its own waste treatment plant, after looking into long-term sewage solutions to replace its current lagoon system, and consulting residents.

But, the province said it would not provide funding, and that the town should instead send its waste to Charlottetown. The Charlottetown facility already treats waste from a number of surrounding communities. Those communities pay a 25 per cent surcharge to have their waste treated there.

At the request of the province, Charlottetown has offered to reduce that out-of-town surcharge to 15 per cent for Stratford, lowering the cost for the town by about $1.5 million over 20 years.

But Cooper said that offer is not good enough.

Town wants bigger discount

Cooper said the town did extensive research into the cost of building its own plant, and came up with a figure of about $16 million over 20 years. According to the town's numbers, even with the surcharge discount, sending its waste to Charlottetown would cost about $1.7 million more.

Stratford finance chair Randy Cooper said the town won't accept a deal that would cost Stratford more than building its own treatment plant. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Cooper said the town won't be signing any agreements without a better offer.

"If it was cost neutral, we're ready to sit down and sign an agreement," said Cooper.

In December, Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said Charlottetown was not prepared to offer any further discounts.

'We are not folding'

Despite the apparent standstill, Cooper said he is confident that the town, city, and province will be able to come up with a solution that is more economical for Stratford. 

"(We are) having good talks with our colleagues, but we haven't gotten to that number yet. And we will get there. Or, that this point in time, we're not going to sign the deal," said Cooper.

Cooper said council is willing to wait as long as it takes to get a better deal. He said the lagoon is fine for the time being.

"I guarantee you, we are not folding on $1.7 million," he said.