Champlain Township is revising its water and sewage connection fees. The move comes after an inequity in the fee charged to L’Orignal builders/developers was discovered to be 4.76 times the amount charged to Vankleek Hill builders/developers.

The new fee structure represents an increase for Vankleek Hill builders and a decrease for L’Orignal builders. It will take effect on June 1, 2024 and will not affect any taxpayers currently paying for connections on their tax bill in the form of a debenture.

Vankleek Hill Councillor Paul Emile Duval spoke against the new fee structure, saying he objected to effectively doubling the connection fee for Vankleek Hill. Duval said that the cost had been lower because funds from the sale of the Vankleek Hill Hydro Commission had been used to offset capital costs at the outset. “L’Orignal didn’t do that,” Duval said.

Tessier replied that there have been many additional costs since then. The Vankleek Hill sewage lagoon system has been refurbished, the Vankleek Hill standpipe (water tower) has been refurbished as well as additional costs for L’Orignal water users. The water and sewer systems are supposed to be user-pay, meaning that only those taxpayers using the system contribute to their cost and upkeep. Government grants are sought for large infrastructure improvements, such as the recoating of the L’Orignal standpipe, which the municipality has currently advertised, seeking tenders to complete the more than $1-million project.

Councillor Andre Roy brought the water and sewer connection fee inequity issue to council a few months ago and asked for a staff report and recommendation.

The example cited in Champlain CAO Kevin Tessier’s report shows that in the L’Orignal ward, a builder would pay two times $1,500 for water connection fees for a duplex, in addition to two times $8,000 for sewer connection fees, for a total of $19,000 in connection fees. In the meantime, the same project in Vankleek Hill would cost a developer $1,590 for a water connection fee and $2,400 to connect to the municipal sewer system, for a total connection fee of $3,990.

Tessier also pointed out that there were five times more connections to the Vankleek Hill sewer system than to the L’Orignal sewer system between 2020 and 2022.

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The two wards each use water purchased from the Town of Hawkesbury and each has its own municipal wastewater treatment system.

In the years after the merger of four municipalities to create Champlain Township, the municipality established one water and sewage user fee for Vankleek Hill, L’Orignal and Laurentian Park (the latter system has fewer users than the larger community systems). But as Tessier explained, a bylaw had been passed in 2008 to levy a capital charge for capital work carried out for the new wastewater treatment plant in L’Orignal and the water and sewer connection fees were never equalized for both wards.

Tessier’s report said that the water connection fees could be defined based on the size of the connection pipe, with the uniform cost being $1,500 for a 3/4-inch pipe, $2,000 for a one-inch pipe, $2,500 for a 1.25-inch connection pipe, $3,000 for a 1.5-inch connection pipe and $4,000 for a two-inch or greater connection pipe. The current water connection cost in Vankleek Hill is $1,590 per connection in Vankleek Hill and $1,500 per residential unit in L’Orignal.

Tessier presented a uniform sewer connection fee based on the size of the water connection pipe, taking into consideration the costs of current infrastructure, but excluding the underground network infrastructure.

Tessier recommended the following fees (in addition to the water connection fee):

3/4-inch water connection pipe = $4,700

1-inch water connection pipe = $6,270

1.25-inch water connection pipe = $7,830

1.5-inch water connection pipe = $9,400

2-inch or greater water connection pipe – $12,535.

Tessier’s report also stated that as of December 31, 2022, the L’Orignal wastewater treatment plant was at 55% capacity and that the Vankleek Hill lagoon system was at 55 per cent capacity. Tessier used information obtained from the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which manages both systems.

The six-month delay in implementing the new fee structure is a normal courtesy to builders and developers, Tessier told council.

When a resolution was made to approve the new fee structure, Duval asked for a recorded vote. Duval, Vankleek Hill councillor Peter Barton and West Hawkesbury councillor Sarah Bigelow voted against the fee structure change as presented. All five remaining councillors and the mayor voted in favour of the new equalized fee structure as presented.