Moose Jaw police were on hand Monday night as city council voted to approve a bylaw that will allow for the replacement of cast iron pipes to be paid for under the Local Improvement Program (LIP).
The vote was initially scheduled to take place at the regular meeting of city council next Monday, May 2. However, Mayor Deb Higgins gave notice last Thursday, April 21, that the vote had been moved up as one member of council would not be able to attend that evening.
Coun, Don Mitchell and Coun. Brian Swanson attempted to block the vote from taking place, saying not enough time was given for notice and that a location for the meeting was not given.
Higgins, acting as chair, disagreed and allowed the meeting and subsequent vote to go ahead.
“All of the notices were sent out Thursday afternoon,” said Higgins.
“I understand that there was a requirement that there had to be a notice from the mayor but I didn’t see that,” argued Mitchell.
“Councillor, when you raise a point of order, you have an option to make your point on what grounds and I have an opportunity to respond – it’s not a debate between you and I,” Higgins interrupted.
“But specifically, you didn’t respond to the point that the location of the meeting wasn’t provided to the members of city council,” fired back Mitchell.
“City council meetings are normally held in city council chambers. I think that was an assumption that we would know there would be a crowd and that it was to be held here in the chambers to accommodate those that were interested in attending.”
From there, it took just a few more minutes for the meeting to wrap up, including the third and final vote that passed the LIP bylaw that outlines 70 per cent of the cast iron project being paid for through general taxation with the remaining 30 per cent coming from impacted property owners.
Up until that point, protestors had largely been able to keep their cool but the vote set off a spark in the gallery that snowballed into shouting, insults and promises that any councillor who voted in favour of the LIP would never get elected in Moose Jaw again.
“None of you will be re-elected!” shouted one woman from the gallery. “I’ll make sure of that!”
“Shame! Shame! Shame,” chanted some members of the group, as other residents tried to get them to calm down and be polite as they left council chambers.
One woman challenged them to kick her out as she continued to shout insults from her seat before finally leaving.
“Classy bunch.” said Higgins as she waited for the group to leave.
With the bylaw approved, construction is expected to start within weeks as a contractor has already been selected. Billing for the LIP will not go out until phase one is complete, towards the end of fall or early winter. Residents will be able to pay a lump sum or have it added to their taxes over 20 years, with interest.
Still in play is a notice of motion from Councillor Heather Eby from last week. Councillors will debate the idea next Monday and if approved, Moose Jaw residents would vote on the LIP as part of the next municipal election.
Cost of pipe replacement program under LIP
Under the LIP, affected residents would be responsible for 30 per cent of the total cost of water main repairs, and that calculation will be made based on the frontage of their property. The current estimated cost is $1,857.00 per metre or about $566 per foot.
As an example, the city said on a 50’ lot, the total cost would be approximately $28,300. The property owner’s portion would be $8,490 and the city would cover the remaining $19,810.
Moose Jaw residents will have the option of paying for the work in a lump sum, or they can finance over 20 years at a four per cent rate of interest, which would be applied to their property taxes.
The city added that residents won’t get billed until work is completed.
Using the city’s example, the cost of financing the $8,490 over 20 years at a four per interest rate would be $51.45 per month.
The affected properties for phase 1 have already been announced and the city already has a contractor in place to start the work “soon”, according to the news release.