County makes play to enter water and wastewater realm, Essa
Simcoe County's Governance Committee, which hadn't met since November
2015, reassembled last Friday for the first time, and approved sending
forward to council a recommendation to tap a provincial mediator and
begin negotiations with its 16 lower tier municipalities "regarding
potential future roles of the County and its local municipalities in
the provision of coordinated, sustainable water and wastewater
servicing in accordance with the Provincial Growth Plan."
The Governance Committee report notes the seeds were planted in the
summer of 2015 when Warden Gerry Marshall and County CAO Mark Aitken
toured each municipality and met with "senior elected officials and
staff .... to establish better communications ... and to determine the
opportunities, issues and challenges facing the local municipal level."
"One issue identified by a number of different municipalities was the
challenge of provision of water and wastewater servicing. The Warden
and CAO have just completed their 2016 / 2017 municipal discussions and
this topic was again raised by municipalities in various ways, some
with some urgency," according to the report. "Many municipalities
expressed difficulty leveraging funds to maintain older infrastructure
and build new infrastructure to realize economic development
opportunities. Others with operational and capacity issues, with
concerns for future abilities to adequately address these services."
Water and wastewater are exclusive jurisdictions of the lower tier
municipalities in Simcoe County, though the County recently entered
the fray through a deal that provided Innisfil's InnServices
Corporation, a $57.7 million loan to finance infrastructure expansion
along its Hwy 400 and Innisfil Beach Road industrial and commercial
"This matter (County involvement in water and waste water services) as you know is one that has come to the surface a number of times over the decades," Mr. Aitken told Free Press Online via email this afternoon. "Interest of late has actually been from the local municipalities in terms of their varying abilities to maintain existing assets, provide for future capacities, infrastructure and services, and address legislative needs and compliance - the question has been 'what can the County do to assist us?' As you can imagine, personal perspectives on this are all over the map depending on which municipality you talk to, and who you talk to."
New Tecumseth council has not had any discussions, at least not in
public session, of any great depth that involved negotiating the
takeover of water and wastewater infrastructure by the County. In fact,
council voted against the County's loan arrangement with Innisfil.
New Tecumseth and the Town of Collingwood have an arrangement that
delivers Georgian Bay water treated in Collingwood, to Alliston via
pipeline. The two municipalities are currently trying to hammer out a
long term deal involving the probable construction of a new water
treatment plant with expanded capacity to meet both their immediate and future needs,
including the pipeline extension to Tottenham.
Essa Township mayor Terry Dowdall, who is also Simcoe County Deputy
Warden and thus chair of the Governance Committee, told Free Press
Online this morning that he removed himself "to speak freely to
"Chair should remain impartial and run meeting and as you know I am
very opinionated on the topic," said Mr. Dowdall. "Though I welcome and
encourage working together, the Township of Essa has no interest as
water and wastewater are municipal responsibilities. We have enjoyed
great relationships with Collingwood and New Tecumseth and look forward
to opportunities to work together."