At a Town Hall meeting on June 6, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) spoke to many topics of concern to the residents of Electoral Area A. One of the projects on the agenda was the status of the West Fernie construction project, which is the biggest construction undertaking in RDEK history.
Project supervisor, Elizabeth Ahlgren, spoke for approximately 10 minutes about the status of the project, which has seen some difficulty due to high groundwater levels.
“The contractor is a little bit behind schedule. The groundwater that we came across was a little higher than we were originally anticipating for early in April and there have also been a bit more of unsuitable material than originally expected,” she said. “Those conditions, the groundwater and soil conditions, they were definitely escalating costs early on and sort of got everybody thinking. The design team had a look at how to best optimize the design to ensure everybody will be provided a consistent and fair level of service, also within budget for both phase one and phase two.”
Ahlgren said the designers have recommended returning to a “gravity design”, which was the design presented to the public at a town hall meeting in October 2015. She also mentioned that the design team of Kerr Wood Leidal/MPE will begin planning phase two of the construction in the next week.
“We anticipate to have those drawings posted up on the website later this summer,” she said. “The construction on that is supposed to be next year.”
Ahlgren took the opportunity to answer some commonly asked questions the RDEK has received in regards to the project. First off, she addressed garbage pick up and said it should not be impacted because of the construction.
“Dawson is working with the city of Fernie to make sure you still have garbage collection throughout construction so please put your garbage out on garbage day,” she said. “If you are in a construction zone and somehow get missed, please let me know and they will take care of the garbage for you.”
According to Ahlgren, property owners wanting to purchase additional services, such as in the case of subdividing properties, are able to do so at an additional cost of $6,762. The cost is inclusive of engineering design and tax. Ahlgren stressed that this was the cost for only phase one of the project. Phase two may have a different cost and will be dependent on the contractor.
“Phase two will be a different price because we will have a different contract in place with potentially a different contractor.”
If additional services are desired, Ahlgren asked that the payment and paperwork be completed with the RDEK before the contractor is working on a specific property.
“Ideally you are letting me know now if there is anything else that you want. If anyone else is thinking about it, they should give me a call and let me know,” she said.
Another common question people are asking, according to Ahlgren, is when they can connect to the new sewer services. Properties cannot be connected until Dawson Contracting has completed phase one of the project, which is expected to be this fall. Also, people are asking how much they should be expected to pay under the new services, to which Ahlgren says the RDEK cannot predict.
“I just want to make sure it’s clear that the work on your property, so to connect between the property line and your house, is a homeowner’s responsibility to do that. We unfortunately can’t predict what everybody’s costs are going to be for that,” she said. “We do recommend you get multiple quotes on the work to make sure you are getting the best value. We don’t actually recommend any contractors. You can look it up in the yellow pages or talk to your neighbours.”
Ahlgren spoke to a parcel tax of $600 that will come into effect when phase two is complete. This is to cover some of the costs of the project. The RDEK has covered a portion of the costs through grants. However, residents of West Fernie will have the opportunity to prepay the parcel tax in one lump sum. The cost is estimated to be between $7,000 and $8,000. Residents will receive a letter with the specific costs closer to that time.
Lastly, Ahlgren addressed the question of whether or not residents had to connect to the sewer system or if they could continue to use their septic system. According to Ahlgren, this is ultimately up to the City of Fernie, which will annex West Fernie as the project is completed.
“It is important that we get enough people to connect that it is functional. If you want the sewer to flow, there has to be enough people who contribute,” she said. “There is the potential opportunity for them to pass a bylaw that forces you to connect within a certain time frame. That could be the other way that they encourage you to connect. We don’t have that answer, it is up to the City of Fernie.”