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Sewer line funds uncertain

A commission overseeing construction of a regional Olds-to-Red Deer sewer line is pressing the province to free up $15 million promised for this year.

The cash is the latest installment of provincial funding for the sewage line, which is expected to cost about $135 million. The province has pledged to cover 90 per cent of the bill and municipalities along the line will cover the rest.

However, ominous warnings of fiscal belt-tightening from the province have raised concerns that the funding is no longer a sure thing.

Dennis Cooper, chairman of the South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission, is worried that if the money doesn’t come through before the end of the province’s fiscal year on April 1, it will be lost.

“We’ve been trying to get Alberta Transportation to move to release those funds to keep the project moving,” said Cooper, who is mayor of Penhold.

“We know that next year we probably won’t get any money. Being realistic, we hate to lose money that has been set aside for us.”

The commission has appealed to Red Deer’s MLAs for support and want to arrange a meeting with Transportation Minister Ric McIver. The goal is to confirm this year’s funding and work out a schedule to get the rest that fits the province’s spending plans.

An Alberta Transportation spokesman offered little in the way of specifics when asked about the project’s status earlier this week other than to say funding was “under review.”

It will take about $50 million to complete the project and $14 million of that is coming from municipalities. If this year’s $15 million comes through, it will take only $20 million to complete the link to Red Deer, hopefully over the next two years.

“It’s the province’s responsibility and the commission’s responsibility to keep this project moving forward,” said Cooper.

“I call it our half-built pipe.”

Cooper said everyone understands the province’s finances are tight, but delaying the project too long will drive up costs because of inflation.

The province has expressed concern that the price tag for the 90-km line has risen from the original $107-million estimate.

But that was partly due to provincial requests that the project be delayed a year, and later that construction be spread out over a longer period.

New routing to address landowner concerns that added 16 km also increased costs.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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