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George’s Brook-Milton exploring water options


“We want the best water for the least amount of cost,” says Rick Collins, a citizen of George’s Brook-Milton who attended the local service district’s public meeting held at the Community Cultural House last week.

Chairman of the George's Brook-Milton local service district, Craig Pardy.

The meeting was held, in part, to address Milton’s water woes.

They’ve been hooked up to the Town of Clarenville’s water supply since Milton’s own water source, Lily Pond, dried up last September. The same thing happened in the fall of 2014.

Craig Pardy, chair of the Local Service District (LSD), says their arrangement with Clarenville expires on April 30.

The Town of Clarenville says they have reached their water filtration limit by letting the water service Milton, and they will not renew.

“Lily Pond has served its time. It is not recovering,” said Pardy.

During this past winter — a time when the amount of water usually recovers — the pond measured 53 inches under the bulkhead.

One of the most prominent options presented at meeting would be to draw from George’s Brook supply, George’s Pond. The quantity of water is massive, says Pardy.

“We’ve got a world class supply in George’s Brook,” he said.

To connect George’s Brook to Milton, Pardy laid out a $1.6 million plan that would see a 10-inch trunk line run along one side of the main road between the two communities. This includes an enhancement of the pumping system to bring the water to Milton.

This method would also see fire hydrants placed throughout the length of the trunk line. Pardy says that should save 15-20 per cent off home owner’s insurance costs for houses close to these hydrants.

Another option which Pardy says the service district is currently exploring would see the line go along the railway bed, to connect Milton to the George’s Brook water supply. The investment in this case would have to be in a more powerful pump to get the water directly over the hill between the two communities.

Pardy also said they were looking at a gravity feed from First Pond, which is 300 feet above sea level. Both municipal affairs and the province’s environment department said this could be a sound plan as well.

If a project is approved, as with any government project for George’s Brook-Milton, they would pay 10 per cent of the cost while the province would pay 90 per cent.

The service district has already been previously approved for a $400,000 project to pay for the Clarenville-Milton water main interconnection. About $70,000 of that sum has been spent, with $330,000 left to put towards a different solution, such as the trunk line from George’s Brook.

Pardy also said they would no longer be paying to purchase water from Clarenville once they commit to a new solution, saving $117,600 a year.

Some in attendance even complained that the George’s Brook water is not high quality and needs better filtration. Pardy says the steps towards better water are coming.

No decisions were made at the meeting, as it was intended to be an event to share and discuss information.

However, Pardy remains optimistic an arrangement for a water supply can be determined between now and April 30, when the water stops flowing into Milton from Clarenville.

 

Current local service district payment structure for George’s Brook-Milton

Each of about 340 households pay $550 per year in fees.

They include:

• $175 for the fire department, amounting to a $59,500 total

• $29.70 for administrative fees, amounting to a $10,000 total

• $345.30 for the current water purchase from Clarenville, including operation of the pumphouse

 

Service district to town?

About 120 people packed the Community Cultural Centre in George’s Brook-Milton last Tuesday to hear what their local service district (LSD) had to say about inquiries made on becoming a town.

The topic was definitely a polarizing issue, with the discussion becoming quite heated at times as citizens hashed out the prospect of becoming a municipality, an idea the LDS began exploring in 2014.

Andy Morgan, director of the governance model with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, attended last week’s meeting.

It was clear local service district chairman Craig Pardy wanted to outline the benefits of going from service district to town, but many remained skeptical.

In fact, certain groups, like the Concerned Citizens of George’s Brook are strongly opposed to the switch to official incorporation as a municipality.

The guidelines the service district asked itself to determine why they are recommending the change to municipality are:

• Can money be saved?

• Can infrastructure be built?

• Will it stimulate economic development?

Pardy began by comparing George’s Brook-Milton to other service districts and municipalities, namely its size.

One of the biggest advantages that George’s Brook-Milton is missing out on as a service district, according to Pardy, is the opportunity to become eligible for an annual gas tax rebate and municipal operating grant, paid by the province to incorporated towns.

These sums are paid out for infrastructure needs on a fee-based structure.

According to Pardy, the people of George’s Brook-Milton account for $5 million per year in tax revenue for the provincial government. These taxes, such as gas taxes, are reallotted by the province, not to service districts, but to municipalities.

“We contribute; we are not small, we are big. And we get zero,” said Pardy.

In consultation with municipal affairs, they estimate George’s Brook-Milton would be eligible for between $70,000-$90,000 in gas tax rebated if they were a town.

“We just want our share,” said Pardy.

One of the added requirements, however, of becoming a municipality would see the town require a town clerk. That would equate to an estimated annual expense of $30,000-$40,000 per year for a full-time employee, along with office space and other costs. But part-time is an option, depending on how much service they want to offer as a town.

The town would be responsible for its own snow clearing. Pardy says they could hire a contractor to plough the side roads at a cost of $5,000 per kilometre per year.

Pardy also pitched that George’s Brook-Milton would retain the 90/10 per cent split in government funded projects of which they currently avail. This would come in handy when money is needed to develop and maintain the state of roads in the community.

He addded the community would not need to charge property taxes, but use a current poll tax system, like the one used by the Town of Musgravetown.

Pardy would expect the current service district fee of $550 per household per year to go down, barring unforeseen expenses, depending on how much the water system for Milton will cost.

While addressing some apprehensive residents who were worried whether the $90,000 in gas tax rebates would be enough to warrant becoming a town, Pardy and Morgan say the process is reversible, but not an instantaneous switch.

Some in attendance were worried about added expenses if the town were to grow, but Pardy said he believed the added revenue of the new growth would offset the cost for additional upgrades.

As for what’s next, the local service district can undertake a feasibility study with the help of municipal affairs. This can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000, according to Morgan.

“At least you have something to think about,” Pardy told the citizens who turned out for the meeting.

 

George’s Brook-Milton by the numbers

George’s Brook-Milton is the sixth largest of 172 local service districts in the province with 780 people as of 2011, showing a growth of 25.6 per cent between 2006-2011.

There are currently 276 municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador. 195 of these towns have a smaller population than George’s Brook-Milton including Cupids, Brigus, Musgravetown and Badger. Port Rexton, for example, has 338 people. Only 81 towns around the island are larger.

George’s Brook-Milton has about 2.4 kilometres of sideroads, not including the highway that runs through the community. Just over a kilometre of these roads are paved. In comparison, according to George’s Brook-Milton’s service district, the town of Port Rexton has eight kilometres of sideroads.

According to the local service district, George’s Brook-Milton’s volunteer fire department has a response time of less than five minutes.

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