The Blue Mountains council wants more information before it will consider assuming ownership of a privately owned water system.
At its committee of the whole meeting on May 16, council voted to get more information about the East Ridge water distribution system before it makes a decision about whether or not to assume ownership of the private water system.
At the meeting, Director of Operations Shawn Carey delivered a lengthy report to council about the system that services Grey County Condominium Corporation 63 (GCC 63). The president of the condo corporation, Bob Welling, appeared as a delegation at a previous council meeting.
Carey outlined the complicated history of the water system and explained that in 2009 there was a staff-level commitment to pursue a town assumption of the system subject to two conditions: council’s approval and an agreement with the condo corporation being completed.
“For whatever reason, neither of those two things happened,” said Carey, who said since that time there has continued to be back-and-forth between the town and GCC 63 on the matter. “This is a big decision.”
Generally speaking, condo corporations are responsible for their own internal water system. However, in this case, a town watermain runs through the property and 41 properties are directly connected to the watermain for their drinking water. Carey also explained the system is 17 years old and pre-dates the town’s engineering standards. In addition, the town does not have consolidated drawings that show the location of all the utilities in the area.
“We want to make sure council is fully aware of some of the operational issues we assume if we take this on,” said Carey.
Members of council were reluctant to proceed without more information.
“I have big concerns about the lack of documentation. We’ve had surprises in the past,” said Councillor Andrea Matrosovs.
Councillor Rob Samspon suggested the town didn’t have much of a choice on this file.
“It’s a totally unrealistic expectation to expect a board of directors of a condominium corporation to have the slightest clue how to run a water system safely,” said Sampson. “I’m beginning to think we don’t have too much of an option here.”
Councillor Jim Uram disagreed and said he had been involved in the original planning review for this development and said it was always meant to be a condo corporation and that means privately owned servicing.
“They’re supposed to be responsible for everything within the bounds of the condominium,” said Uram. “I can’t think of anywhere a municipality has gone in and taken over a service. We have to honour the fact it is a condo. I don’t think we have a responsibility in this particular case to move away from that.”
Other members of council said more financial information about the situation needed to come forward.
“We need to understand the financial implications. This problem is something we’ve created ourselves by allowing all these condos,” said Mayor Alar Soever. “I know why developers favour condos, I don’t understand why the town would prefer condos.”
After a lot of discussion, council voted 6-0 to ask staff for more information about how a deal to assume the system would be structured and more details about the finances.
“I would like to know: what does a deal look like?” said Sampson.