‘Competing interests’: Brockville council will vote on design of upgraded sewage station next week

Brockville’s main sewage pumping station in Centeen Park. – Google maps

After hearing from both staff and a concerned citizen regarding the best way to proceed with the design of a much-needed upgraded sewage pumping station at Centeen Park, Brockville City Council deferred their decision to next week’s meeting.

At the top of their standing committee meeting on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, council received a presentation from local resident and businessman Gord Cameron about the design possibilities for an upgraded sewage pumping station at Centeen Park. 

The main question at hand leading up to the meeting was whether the re-designed station will be predominantly built above or below ground level.

The staff report for the meeting was prepared by Peter Raabe, director of engineering and infrastructure services, who was in attendance at the meeting and seeks the recommendation that council approve ‘Design Option 1’ for the city’s main pumping station in Centeen Park. 

Gord Cameron opened his presentation saying “the purpose of this delegation is to try to tell the council and this committee that they should be providing direction in what they don’t want in this park as far as a sewage pumping station, and set out the parameters for things that they would like to see.”

“The problem is you have competing interests,” Cameron explained. “There never should have been a station there now that it’s a park. So now we have to make the most of a bad situation.”

He exclaimed, “The park is extremely valuable” referencing the various community events that are held in Centeen Park, such as the hydro-plane races. Cameron also addressed that Centeen Park is an irreplaceable docking local for cruise ships and tall ships.

“It’s a very versatile piece of land so if you consume it with something that’s not park-like, you’re going to give up a lot. It’s an economic driver for the city and tourism,” stated Cameron. 

As stated in the staff report, “In April 2023, the city retained the services of J.L. Richards for the engineering design of the station. The project is currently at the 30 per cent design stage and to keep the project moving forward, the consultant needs direction as to whether the station will be constructed above ground or constructed with a good portion of it underground.”

On November 30, 2023, the City of Brockville hosted a Public Information Centre (PIC) where they presented both design options with the goal of obtaining any comments or concerns from the public. As a result of this census, the primary points of concern for citizens were the preservation of green space in the park, the aesthetics of the building, and worries about environmental damage to nearby trees, water, etc. Multiple attendees suggested the station be relocated. 

Several residents noted in the PIC that they would like to see blueprint planning of the possible buildings in advance of construction to be able to comment. For the benefit of council, Cameron superimposed to-scale renderings of the pumping stations within a static google maps satellite image of Centeen Park. These images can be viewed by the public here

Cameron reiterated that his main reason for presenting to council was to gauge the general sentiments on design options before moving too far into financial bureaucracy and budgetary restrictions, stating “let’s go for something that’s going to be good for the park and when we get to the more detailed design phase, we haven’t boxed ourselves in a corner.” 

He then shared the information he’s received from J.L. Richards regarding possible dimensions and site plans.

“The site plan consumes half of the western area of the park, which is around a quarter of the whole park.” The site plan also showed that the infrastructure would be enclosed by six foot high barbed wire fencing. 

Cameron stated, “What we should note from the slide is the area it will take from the park and the high fencing is something you might see in heavy industry.” He continued, “For tourist boats, you come up to Brockville and your first impression of Brockville is a fence with barbed wire on it…It’s just not a pleasant situation.” 

Peter Raabe then took the floor to go over his report, but before doing so, he wanted to clear up some “misconceptions” that he’s heard circulating around Brockville. Raabe clarified that this is not a “new” pumping station so much as a modernized replacement for the pre-existing station that has been located at Centeen Park since 1963. He confirmed the current plan is for the existing station to be torn down so they can re-purpose the building. 

“This was determined a long time ago,” Raabe explained. “The way the city’s sewage and sanitary systems were built, everything flowed as per gravity and in fact, the outlet before a sewage facility was a pipe that extended out into the St. Lawrence from the bottom of Ford Street.

“We can’t pick the station up and move it somewhere else,” he continued. “This is where it has to go. The infrastructure dictates this is where it goes.” 

Option 1 (also referred to as the traditional design) will have a capital cost ranging between $17.5 and $20 million. The traditional design would have infrastructure located above grade, and the staff report cites multiple advantages including: 

  • Reduced construction schedule  
  • Optimal layout and flexibility for key equipment installation and maintenance 
  • At-grade access to key operational processes with direct access from the exterior facilitating material and chemical deliveries  
  • Minimizes excavation and overall footprint (640m2) of the station by stacking spaces
  • Reduced operating costs

The most obvious disadvantage to Option 1 is that structure would be built above ground, leading to associated concerns about aesthetics, tourism, and restrictions to activities in Centeen Park. 

Should Brockville move forward with Option 2, the capital cost will be in the $25 to $27.5 million range, and the infrastructure will amass a 25 per cent larger footprint on the park. However, Option 2 would have 40 per cent less building area above ground, ultimately making its impact on the park less obvious than Option 1. 

Raabe shared, “We’re going to be hosting another Public Information Centre in the near future to discuss what it’s going to look like. Is it going to be stone? Is it going to be brick or siding? We’re looking for comments and some recommendations from the public through that process to be able to move the project forward.”

While council was reminded multiple times about the timing restrictions on this project, Mayor Matt Wren acknowledged the need for more information and public input.

Ultimately, council moved to refer the vote to next week.

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