Simcoe County regional task forces could make water services more efficient: consultant

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Report predicts more than $1.1 billion in capital costs for municipal water and wastewater infrastructure over the next 10 years

A consultant hired by Simcoe County to analyze local water and wastewater systems concluded that the area would benefit from regional water partnerships.

At the Tuesday (1 February) meeting of the County Regional Government Review Service Delivery Task Force, RV Anderson Associates Limited presented a draft report on the effectiveness of water and utility services. wastewater in Simcoe County.

The 113-page report recommends that the county create regional task forces that could recommend further partnership opportunities, starting with task forces for the Midland and South Simcoe region, the latter comprising the municipalities of the bay. South Georgian including Collingwood.

“Municipalities in Simcoe County are planning capital expenditures of more than $1.1 billion over the next 10 years to meet near-term growth needs,” noted Rika Law, project manager at RV Anderson Associates. Limited, in its presentation to the working group. “It will be necessary to explore opportunities for efficiencies to maintain public and provincial support. »

According to the report, most municipalities in Simcoe County (only Tiny Township excluded) should plan for water and wastewater capacity increases. Current data estimates that countywide capacity increases will be 51% for water and wastewater.

Although the report considers the possibility of a Simcoe County water utility, it does not go so far as to recommend this option.

“Simcoe County seeking to create a regional utility would likely encounter strong resistance from several local municipalities, but collaboration between them, the county and the province would increase the chances of successful partnerships,” Law said. .

The report’s four key recommendations are:

  • Lobby for provincial support
  • Establish regional water and sanitation service working groups to advance formal partnerships
  • Increase county role and expertise to support water and wastewater planning. This could include hiring a county water and wastewater engineer or planner who could coordinate working groups and be responsible for lobbying the provincial government
  • Improve communication and collaboration between municipalities

The consultant also recommends including stormwater management in the scope of the working groups.

With regard to the working groups, it is suggested that priority be given to two specific areas:

  • Midland Bay, which would include Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay
  • South Simcoe, which would include Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview, Essa, New Tecumseth, Adjala-Tosorontio, Innisfil, Bradford West Gwillimbury and possibly Barrie

Cross border services are already in place for water supply between Collingwood and Blue Mountains, Collingwood and New Tecumseth, New Tecumseth and Clearview (New Lowell), New Tecumseth and Essa (Baxter), Innisfil and Bradford and Ramara and Severn.

Sewage services are shared between Clearview and Wasaga Beach, while water supply and sewage treatment are shared between Midland and Tay.

Severn Township Deputy Mayor Jane Dunlop asked why Severn, Oro-Medonte and Ramara were not on the list of municipalities recommended to form task forces.

“Orillia had no part in this at all?” They have water they can share,” Dunlop said.

Law said the city of Orillia was asked to help write the report, but did not respond and the consultant never had the opportunity to meet with them again.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean they might not be participating, it just means they weren’t able to come to the table during that draft period,” she said.

The County Regional Government Review Service Delivery Task Force was initially formed to provide service efficiency suggestions for the regional governance review across the province, and continued its work after the province announced in October 2019 that it would put decision-making powers back in the hands of municipalities instead of imposing top-down change.

A task force was formed to support the exercise and in January 2020 Simcoe County Council voted to hire third-party consultants to examine the possibility of streamlining fire services, land use planning (official plans and zoning) and library services throughout Simcoe County. They also voted to use their own staff to investigate possible efficiencies in stormwater management, legal services, transit, water and wastewater.

Chair Nina Bifolchi said at Tuesday’s meeting that the task force will meet at a later date to discuss the recommendations and determine which ones they would support to send to Simcoe County Council.

Simcoe County Chief Executive Mark Aitken said he would also share the report and presentation with the chief executives of Simcoe County’s 18 municipalities to get their input.

To access the full report, click here.

At their February 2 meeting, the working group voted to receive the report.

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