Oldcastle Residents Facing Staggering Sewer Bill

Residents in Oldcastle are facing bills of about $50,000 as part of a $73-million sanitary sewer project being split between Windsor and Tecumseh.

At a special meeting on Tuesday, residents pushed council to find another way to come up with the needed money for the project.

About $52-million of the total project cost of $73-million has already been covered through the City of Windsor, Town of Tecumseh along with provincial and federal government grants. The remaining $21-million is proposed to be covered by the 463 properties directly benefiting from the 8th Concession Road Sanitary Sewer Outlet — including the many industrial and commercial properties in the area.

Frank Venuto lives in Oldcastle and can't believe the bill he's facing.

"It just frightens me that the town can impose these kinds of costs on their residences," says Venuto. "Today it's this project. Tomorrow — what project is it going to be that's going to show up in your backyard, in your neighbourhood where you're going to get hit with $50,000?"

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara says the Ministry of the Environment is pushing the town to address complaints of failing septic systems and sewage getting into the local environment.

"How long do you think that [the ministry of environment] is going to wait in this region when we're struggling to control the blue-green algae where they don't impose other laws down the road? I think this is what the pressure that we're facing as a municipality," says McNamara.

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Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara chairs a meeting of council on February 13, 2018. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

While McNamara understands residents are being hit with a big bill, he stresses the risk of not doing anything will lead to even higher costs for residents. The mayor points to a similar situation in the former Township of Sandwich South.

"So, those folks decided not to get on board the petition where they could've had full municipal water services for around $9,000 — now it's $25,000 to hook up," says McNamara. "That's what's at stake here."

Venuto says the dollar signs are staggering.

"$50,000 can pay for a lot of things — even if you have $50,000," says Venuto. "It can pay for a child's education, it can pay for a better retirement — if you have it, but to go into debt to pay $50,000 is just a heavy burden on our residents."

McNamara stressed the town doesn't have many other options.

"We've got to look at the big picture here because it is a piece that I think [the ministry of environment], they have patience, but only so much."

A full report is expected to be brought back to council at a future meeting where councillors could sign off on the needed cost recovery to complete the project.

If council decides against the proposed cost recovery, the town could fall out of compliance with the Ministry of the Environment, opening itself to potential provincial orders — stalling any further development in the area.

The town offers 10-year and 20-year payment plans for property owners faced with these types of cost recovery by-laws.