A municipal sani-dump in Fernie is beyond the horizon as of the last city council meeting, when councillors rejected plans to invest over $422K in a temporary location on 13th St and Railway Ave.
Fernie has been without a municipal sani dump since the end of summer last year when the previous location at the Visitor Information Centre was closed at the end of the season. It was later removed as part of a car-park renewal project, without plans for a replacement lined up.
Community feedback was poor, and the city later started working on securing a temporary solution and a long-term location back in January 2022.
A temporary location at Railway Ave / 13th St was proposed as part of a wider car-park project, which included three other locations around town in a bid to improve parking, at a cost of almost $1.3 million – which was over budget.
In a presentation to city council on August 8, staff recommended the city proceed with only three of the four parking projects of which the temporary sani dump proposal was one.
But, councillors objected to the high cost of the Railway Ave / 13th St option – at $422,074.44 – given the site would be compacted gravel with temporary sani dump infrastructure, and given that camping season in 2022 is over half over already.
Councillor Phil Iddon, who has previously voiced concerns about the lack of progress on the sani dump file lead the charge, saying that while he was in favour of adding parking capacity around town, he had problems with the sani dump solution as proposed.
“$422K for gravel surfacing and grading … I’m at a loss to understand that. There isn’t to my knowledge, any perceived lack of parking in that part of town,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a temporary sani dump site.”
The city’s manager of engineering, Jenny Weir agreed that the costs were “higher than we would expect based on our understanding of previous works of this nature,” but added that the price included utility work for water, sewer and power connections, as well as concrete barriers and signage for the sani dump infrastructure.
Mayor Ange Qualizza said that the community’s needs had apparently been met by the private market for the 2022 season, after an “accidental” summer of no municipal infrastructure in place.
“When the community finds out the cost of giving a temporary location for a sani dump when there’s currently a private sani dump …It’s a lot of money. I’m curious to know the need of it.”
The city has been encouraging sani dump users to use the one available at the Fernie RV Park, or travel further afield while it searches for a temporary location.
Iddon added that there were likely other uses for the property as well, given its location near affordable housing and commercial properties. He said he would not support the use of the property for a sani dump in the short or long-term, but went on to say he believed the city needed to offer service levels similar to what was previously available at the Visitor Information Centre.
Other councillors agreed that the cost was too high for a temporary solution, and the Railway Ave / 13th St temporary sani dump proposal was removed from the plans to be approved.
The decision throws the temporary sani dump file back up in the air, while progress on a permanent sani dump solution remains stalled.
A new location for the sani dump is unlikely to be secured ahead of the end of camping season, or the current building season, or before the end of this current council’s term in office, which expires at the election on October 15. Councillor Iddon suggested that the decision on whether the city offer a sani dump site at all be made by another council down the road, given there will be no progress in 2022.
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