MINDEMOYA—A Mindemoya resident is questioning whether there is/or was funding provided to Central Manitoulin for the Mindemoya drain and concerns have been raised as to why the total project cost for the drain and road work in the municipality has increased substantially.
At its meeting last week, Central Manitoulin council passed a motion, “that by-law 2016-06 being a by-law for the final cost levy for the Mindemoya Drain be given its first reading.” This had been recommended by the Water, Waste and Education Committee.
“As you (council) know we didn’t proceed with the first, second and third readings of this bylaw, as there were questions raised by members of the public at the meeting and staff is preparing a report that will answer the questions raised on this,” said Mayor Richard Stephens.
“It will allow the report to go out to the public,” said Councillor Derek Stephens.
Councillor Patricia MacDonald said, “there seemed to be some confusion in terms of the (provincial) funding having been provided for this project. There was no drain funding in that provincial funding, no direct link to that funding.”
Mayor Stephens said the total cost of the project was $2.5 million, but $1.44 million was being funded (the non-drain portion) and that more funding needs to be provided.
“Is there delay (from the changed reading process) getting the project under way?” asked Councillor Dale Scott.
CAO Ruth Frawley pointed out the project is ready to go once council passes third reading.
“That is why we are not rushing this, we want to get the staff report and get the answers to the questions that have been posed,” said Mayor Stephens.
Local resident Steven Shaffer, who attended the council meeting told the Recorder afterwards, “the current council has stated that there was/is no grant for the Mindemoya drain. However, if you read the attached announcement by the previous mayor-council that appears not to be the case. Has the taxpayer been lied to again by a politician? I would like answers, it appears that something is amiss.”
As reported in July, the drain, slated at $1.6 million, was originally petitioned by the municipal staff and would have brought a significant bill to the doorsteps of adjacent landowners.
However, it was announced at that time the municipality had secured $1.44 million in grants for the project, not only relieving local landowners of a significant bill for their share but getting the municipality, and by extension the taxpayers, off the hook as well.
“My main concern is that when the $1.4 million grant was announced there was much fanfare, previously administration said it would greatly offset assessments to be paid by Mindemoya ratepayers,” said Mr. Shaffer. “Now they are saying this money has gone for road work and not the drain. Who is pulling the wool over someone’s head? My assessment is roughly $5,000, others will be $4,000 and some will be as low as $200.”
“It’s the principle of the thing,” said Mr. Shaffer. “The last administration said council would not go ahead unless funding was provided, and, although the engineers found more rock than expected in their test holes why is the cost so high now. Who is telling the truth?”
“I find the whole thing interesting and very convoluted,” said Mr. Shaffer.
“I can appreciate his (Mr. Shaffer’s) involvement,” said Mayor Stephens after last weeks council meeting. “I have to agree there is a misunderstanding. The original estimate we had received from the engineer in 2009 was that the project would be $1.568 million and we (council) applied for funding under the existing grant structure which was one-third funding each from the province, feds and the municipality. We made an application for this funding, but were rejected in 2009.”
“Then in 2010 there was a change of administration and in 2013 a new funding program came out, with the province providing up to 90 percent funding of a capital project,” said Mayor Stephens. “The parameter on this funding was that it had to go for things like roads, bridges, water and sewer and the powers at the time looked at the original project estimate and added two percent on that cost. So the project was now estimated at $1.6 million for water drain and upgrading of the highways. So this was going to cost $1.6 million and the province approved 90 percent of the project, so this is where the $1.44 million came into play, for both projects.”
“I received a recent letter, in which the engineer gave a total project estimate of $2.415,000,” said Mayor Stephens. “So this had gone from $1.6 million to $2.4 million and that’s why I was up at the municipal office today, looking at why this cost had jumped and an explanation of the overrun of this project.”
“I can only assume we will not proceed with the billing of assessments until we have a clearer idea of why the estimates went from $1.6 million to $2.4 million. We know there was a major overrun of rock that had to be removed, but we are looking at a significant amount in additional costs,” said Mayor Stephens. He noted, “this is all really one project because the roads had to be dug up for digging water lines (as well as the road work done). It was always the intention that this would be a single project, for both the drain and roadwork.”