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Woolwich going back to the well on extending services in Breslau

Breslau residents still using private wells or septic systems will get another chance to switch over to municipal services, as Woolwich plans to survey homeowners about making the change.

Many residents of the older, unserviced areas of the village, including the Elroy Acres subdivision, have previously resisted attempts to make the switch. Bigger pushes from the township in 2008 and 2010 were rejected, in large part due to the estimated costs which ranged up to $90,000 for some households.

The township has had some uptake on the idea, however, including parts of the subdivision on municipal water. And in 2016, some 25 properties in the core of the village connected to municipal water and sewer at an initial cost of $11,200 apiece as developers completed a loop of services in conjunction with adjacent new subdivisions.

In 2010 there were 96 properties on private services in the older area of Breslau and there still remain 60 properties that are on private water (well) and wastewater (septic) systems, director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe told councillors meeting by videoconference Tuesday night.

Given upcoming road and drainage work planned for the village, along with an increase in inquiries from residents, the time is right to ask people about municipal services, he said, noting the conditions satisfy a council decision following the 2010 debates that the township would wait for the community to come to it rather than pushing for an extension of services.

“Staff recognize the value in re-engaging with those affected property owners to determine their level of interest in the township initiating a special service levy process for the purpose of designing and extending full municipal services to those areas that are currently privately or partially serviced. Staff believe the number of inquires received to date from individual property owners and through the Breslau municipal drain process is significant enough to start this special service levy process as required in council’s 2010 resolution,” Puppe said in his report to council.

“It is the right time for at least a survey.”

Puppe noted Breslau residents have resisted attempts to extend municipal services into some of the older sections of the village, but there have been changes in the past decade that may mean more than half would like to see a switch.

“We’re hopeful for a majority, and that’s the expectation that we have,” he said.

Noting the township typically gets poor response to surveys, Coun. Patrick Merlihan cautioned against pushing ahead based on 51 per cent of respondents being in favour of the proposal, suggesting 51 per cent of all affected residents would make more sense.

“I’d like it to be a majority of the homes, not just the little response we usually get,” said Merlihan.

He also suggested the township needs to make it easy to respond, including by phone, adding that a resident who doesn’t respond to the survey should be counted as a ‘no’ vote.

Along with spelling out all the options, a survey would be more useful if contained at least some ballpark figures about the costs in order to help residents in making a decision, said Merlihan, pointing out that the report had no costs outlined in it.

“Homeowners need that information as a baseline.”

Given past estimates running into the tens of thousands of dollars, it’ll be a tough sales job, Merlihan added.

“Why would I want to get on municipal services?” he asked, noting the option is expensive, with monthly costs that keep growing at rates well above inflation.

Puppe conceded it would be a tough sales job for some, though those property owners with failing wells or septic systems might see the value in the service.

Unlike past proposals, there would be no requirement to connect with this go-round, he added.

“It’s time to get on with this,” argued Coun. Murray Martin said, noting homeowners would be “surprised” at the cost of new septic system, for instance.

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