It looks like Phase Two of the Lorne Street political, financial and environmental roller-coaster ride is nearing its end.
Town councillors are expected to approve spending $210,000 next week to complete the $1.9 million project that so far has kept the once flood-prone Lorne Street dry during recent heavy rain storms while creating a new 40,000 cubic metre waterfowl pond surrounded by walking trails in downtown Sackville.
However, Phase Two also came with the discovery of about 14,000 tonnes of soil laced with toxic contaminants including petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals that cost $525,000 to haul away.
At their meeting next week, councillors will be asked to approve a staff recommendation to spend the $210,000 that remains in the Phase Two budget to clear out ditches running across the industrial park to an aboiteau that drains into the Tantramar River near the town’s main sewage lagoons.
That money would also buy a heavy-duty, six-inch pump to lift water that the aboiteau can’t handle over the dike and into the river.
Town Engineer Dwayne Acton outlined several options for spending the remaining money at council’s meeting this week, but recommended that councillors approve clearing the ditches and installing the pump as the preferred one for now.
“It fits within the budget that we currently have,” Acton said, adding that clearing the ditches would allow more flood water to be stored before it’s discharged to the river.
“[It] will give us extra capacity, give us extra flow out to an existing aboiteau,” he said, “and it also meets budget.”
Acton acknowledged that instead, council could choose to apply the money toward building a 20,000 cubic metre flood water retention pond in the old Sackville quarry or it could invest in more pipes and culverts under Charles Street, but both projects would require substantially more money that the town would have to come up with on its own.
He pointed out that Phase Two of the Lorne Street project is jointly financed, with the federal government paying half the cost while the province and town each contribute a quarter.
Acton said council could also choose to do nothing, which would mean returning $105,000 to the federal government, $52,500 to the province and keeping the remaining $52,500 for other local projects.
Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects, said that the town hasn’t heard anything yet about its application for joint funding of a $4.6 million third phase of the Lorne Street project.
Phase Three could include a 20,000 cubic metre retention pond in the Sackville quarry as well as an additional 40,000 cubic metre pond behind the community garden on Charles Street along with deeper ditches and more piping to carry storm water through the industrial park to the provincially owned aboiteau on the Tantramar River.
The town is hoping that the province would agree to upgrade the aboiteau to allow it to handle the extra water.
During Monday’s meeting, Councillor Bill Evans warned once again that Phase Three is needed to handle the increasing likelihood of a one-in-one-hundred year storm.
“The problem with what we’ve done is that we have enough capacity now to deal with the ordinary major weather event that happens once a year,” he said.
“A lot of people would look at it and say, ‘Geez, we had a hurricane and we’re OK, we don’t need to do this,'” he added.
“The decision that was made years ago was to build infrastructure to deal with a weather event that hasn’t happened yet,” Evans said.
He added that instead of using the remaining money to clear ditches and install a pump, perhaps the town should consider spending $500,000 to build a 20,000 cubic metre retention pond in the old quarry even without federal and provincial funding.
He acknowledged that would mean allocating nearly $300,000 from next year’s capital budget to supplement the $210,000 that is still available for Phase Two.
“I’m inclined to create a problem for our treasurer and say, ‘This may be our only opportunity to get this much more [water retention] capacity for this kind of price,'” he said.
To review a detailed timeline of the Lorne Street flood control project, click here.