Weeks after reporting that the province would not be covering $10 million in overage charges on the regional waterline, local leaders have been in discussions with provincial officials to find possible solutions to the problem.
The project ran $10 million over-budget earlier in July, and that Bonnyville could be on the hook for $8 million and the M.D. of Bonnyville $2 million.
Bonnyville mayor Gene Sobolewski and MLA David Hanson met with Minister of Transportation Ric McIver to discuss how the town and province might find a compromise on the waterline’s costs, and the meeting seems to have left a positive impression.
“We discussed the predicament that the town is in, the results of some of the decision making at the bureaucratic level, and the minister was sympathetic,” said Sobolewski. “He committed to having his department talk to our administration in order to get this thing worked out.”
At the time the overages had been reported, Bonnyville’s administration had been directed to lobby the provincial government to honour their original commitment, which would have seen the province cover 90 per cent of the pipeline’s cost.
“On a federal and provincial level, $10 million is not necessarily insignificant, but it’s a drop in the bucket. For the Town of Bonnyville it’s a huge blow,” Hanson told Lakeland Connect on Monday.
“I’m hoping that they take that into consideration and we can get some sharing and not just throw the costs at the municipality.
“I’d like to see us work something out with the minister, and soften the blow as much as we can — I’ll be advocating for the town and the M.D. as their MLA, so for now we’ll wait for the decision from the department.”
Some of the confusion comes from the province’s stance on the situation is a result of a shake-up four years ago that saw significant changes to how the government would approach Water for Life grants, wanting to see cost escalation near the end of a project rather than at the time of incurrence.
Sobolewski said that he expects a decision to be made by the end of the week due to the issue’s high priority, and that based on the Minister’s comments councillors were confident that things could work out in the town’s favour.
“The devil’s always in the details, but from what the Minister was saying, things are looking up.”
Work first began on the waterline in late 2018, and is expected to be complete later this September.