Breslau residents regularly accuse Woolwich council of inaction. This time around, however, they’re happy for it.
The hundred or so who packed a meeting in Elmira Tuesday night left smiling when councillors quashed a report calling for the extension of water and sewer services into the older parts of the village. Outraged by forecasted costs of some $92,000 apiece, homeowners voiced their opinions in no uncertain terms.
Tempers flared. Longstanding grievances about Breslau being ignored boiled over. People in the gallery cheered accusatory presentations from neighbours, at times heckling councillors. But all was forgiven when council voted unanimously to do nothing, pledging to put any plans aside unless residents themselves ask for it.
The report calling for full municipal services to replace private wells and septic systems flowed from an incident in the fall of 2007, when several shallow wells ran dry. Residents blamed the problem on construction of the new Empire Communities subdivision at the village’s south end, noting some additional grading work at the site solved the problem. The township, however, continues to maintain drought conditions were to blame, noting full services would eliminate a reoccurrence.
After the immediate crisis was dealt with, Woolwich began looking at servicing options. An initial estimate of $15,000 per household for water and $30,000 for water and sanitary sewers met with mixed reviews from residents. More recently, as costs grew, a survey of homeowners found 63 per cent opposed to the idea. Still, engineering staff recommended pushing ahead with the project, with costs to be passed on to residents.
When recent estimates put the total cost at more than $92,000, including $20,500 for the first 20 years of water and sewer charges, there was shock and anger, leading to the outcry seen Tuesday night.
“We feel abused, we feel violated – trust is shot. We can’t afford this, plain and simple,” said resident Deana Gloor, who accused the township of using the word “drought” to scare people.
Her comments were indicative of the tone taken by some 15 people who pleaded with council to drop its servicing plan.
Fellow resident Rudy Hane said it was “absurd” to force everyone in the older part of Breslau to pay for the installation of services because some people may need new wells or new septic systems in the future. As with many other residents, he blamed the dry wells on the Riverland subdivision, saying the expensive services would amount to existing residents subsidizing dry basements in the new subdivision.
He also dismissed the township’s rationale for installing services, calling the process and resultant report slanted in favour of its plan.
“To shove these things down our throat is absurd. I think you’re trying to shape the image to make it palatable to us. It’s not working,” he told councillors.
The frustration with the township was summed up by longtime resident Robert Slater: “When are you going to start looking out for us?” His comments drew tremendous applause.
Council certainly heard the message. Shortly after the public presentations, councillors indicated their support for the residents rather than the engineering report.
“I can’t imagine why we would ask these people to pay for this service if they don’t want it,” said Coun. Ruby Weber.
Her motion to drop the idea eventually won unanimous approval, though councillors were realistic enough to note the issue would one day return to the agenda. Coun. Murray Martin noted the township is likely to be criticized 20 years down the road for doing nothing today.
In the near term, residents will have to take ownership of any problems that occur now that they’ve asked the township to butt out, added Coun. Mark Bauman.
“If you run out of water, or you have bad water, it’s not Woolwich Township’s responsibility.”