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A meeting Monday with municipal, provincial and federal politicians to sort out a solution to upgrade the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility came up empty.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne was in the province for meetings to figure out how to overcome cost overruns at the wastewater treatment site and finish the long-promised facility upgrades. St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen, Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett and Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Akin highlighted their concerns in July after learning the municipal portion of funding for the project had jumped higher than initially expected.
Champagne offered no details of the discussions on the matter, only to say they were positive.
“We explored a number of possible solutions with the provincial government, with our municipal partners. I’ll let them think about that. It would not be the right time now to get into all the details,” said Champagne.
The upgrades were part of the 2015 federal Liberal election platform and have yet to be realized.
Initially, the arrangement to fund the upgrade was 50-25-25 (federal-provincial-municipal), but cost increases for the project have the split at 44-23-33. Breen previously told the Telegram the project would not proceed without a 50-25-25 split, meaning it’s up to the federal and provincial governments to find the difference.
If the project is unable to be funded and unable to go ahead, the municipalities will face penalties for not having adequate wastewater management systems in place.
Champagne says changing the regulations was not part of the morning’s discussion.
“The regulation is in place, so that’s why I was saying time is of the essence,” he said.
Champagne also was unable to say for sure if an agreement between all parties would be achieved before the coming federal election, currently slated for October 22.
Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Lisa Dempster, who on July 22 wrote to Champagne urging more federal funding, says there are a number of solutions under consideration after a brainstorming session during the meeting.
“We agree that this project has to happen. It’s a very substantial project — $255 million. Right now, we will go away and do a little more work on the things we discussed,” Dempster said.
Bobbett also said it was a positive meeting, but wouldn't give details of potential solutions.
“Right now, we’re just talking about what we can do together, other sources of funding that may be there and available, and working together to work out those details,” he said.
Champagne, Dempster, Bobbett, and MPs Ken MacDonald and Nick Whalen were in Paradise on Monday to unveil $64 million in new infrastructure spending as part of the federal government’s gas tax fund.
— With files from Ashley Fitzpatrick