‘A fork in the road’: Brockville council defers decision on Centeen Park sewage station design

A screengrab of Brockville City Council discussing the sewage pumping station design at their Feb. 27 meeting.

Brockville City Council has again deferred a decision on the design of an upgraded sewage pumping station at Centeen Park, seeking more information on the project.

Council has already heard from local businessman Gord Cameron, as well as a staff report by Director of Engineering and Infrastructure Services Peter Raabe, at their Tuesday, Feb. 20 standing committee meeting. As previously reported by Brockvilleist, Mayor Matt Wren suggested that council needed more time and information to make a final decision on the design. The item was deferred to the following meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

During the Feb. 27 meeting, Raabe once again delivered an updated presentation on the Centeen Park pumping station to give council a better understanding of the proposed designs.

“The aboveground, or Option 1, has a larger building and a smaller footprint, whereas with Option 2 (partially below ground), the building is smaller but the footprint of the facility would be a little bit larger,” Raabe said.

Councillors learned that Option 1 is estimated to be around 2,809 square feet, whereas Option 2 is estimated to be 1,281 square feet. 

“Going forward, regardless of where we are tonight or which option is selected, this is not about what the aesthetics or what the building is going to look like,” Raabe said. “Our plan going forward in the next step would be that we host a second Public Information Centre (PIC), where we will be presenting the public with a couple of different options as to what the facility might look like.”

An artist’s rendering of the two sewage pumping station designs council is considering.

Raabe continued, “From the comments that we receive at that Public Information Centre, we would then have our architects go ahead and design a plan and then bring that back to council for final approval.” 

Mayor Matt Wren then added, “I’ve been talking to a lot of people and I think members of the community have the impression that this is the full and final decision and the renderings and pictures that have been out there is what we’re going to have.”

He further clarified, “I’ve tried to explain that this isn’t the end of the road. This is a fork in the road and what you need to do to get to the design phase is have the council decide whether we want to have a conventional design or have a design that would put some of this infrastructure underground.” 

Raabe confirmed Mayor Wren’s statement and added, “Once we know which path we’re going to take, then we can start on the detailed design.” 

Mayor Wren then spoke to Council directly: “We have a recommendation tonight so we can either support the recommendation by choosing the traditional design or someone can make an amendment that we consider the non-conventional design, or if council doesn’t feel that we have all the information that we need to know tonight, we can refer this back to staff with a list of the things that we’re still seeking.”

When the floor was opened for discussion, nearly every councillor raised their hand hoping to speak. Councillor Deery began by asking Raabe to explain what the new design’s height would be like in comparison to the pre-existing pumping station. Raabe responded that the plan is to make the design for Option 1 a flat-roofed structure, which will stand 16 feet above ground level in relation to the road. For comparison, the pre-existing station has a peaked roof and currently stands at 22 feet. 

Councillor Earle shared his concern by adding, “I find it hard, as I suspect anyone watching and many of the other councillors will, to understand. We have a site plan here but without a rendering of the building…I’m trying to picture that and how it will interact with the current uses of the park.” 

Earle continued, “For those who don’t know, we also had that place wired at a certain time because our intention was to attract the cruise ships, which is a new market for the St. Lawrence River…Without having a rendering or document, I’m having trouble grasping the user-friendliness of this in some of our future tourism endeavours.” 

Councillor Fullarton asked why the newer designs are much larger than the pre-existing plant, and have so many more visible outdoor vents. Raabe responded “You have to remember the original pumping station was designed back in the 1960s and this one is 2023. Things have changed significantly in the wastewater technology field. There are a lot of deficiencies operationally with the existing station.” 

“We’re all consumed with the usage of the park,” Councillor Fullarton continued. “I think these diagrams show us once the old building is gone… we’ll have a bigger area of park that is all together and not broken up by this odorous infrastructure. I think this is going to be an improvement.” 

“For $7.5 million, I just don’t see the advantage of putting it underground,” Fullerton added. “I just don’t think we would gain enough…For myself, my vote would be toward the traditional layout.”

Councillor Wales expressed he was also leaning towards Option 1. “I think they’re just different visual impacts, but I wouldn’t say that objectively one is better or worse than the other. So then, the difference becomes the logistics of how we operate the thing moving forward. It seems slightly less convenient to go underground.” 

Wales continued, “I don’t want us to move forward with this decision unless we’re all comfortable and I appreciate that there’s a deadline coming up for the funding application.” 

Mayor Wren then shared, “I don’t have a lot of confidence in this funding arrangement and I think we should be looking at the project on its own merits. I would not wager a lot that we will be successful in that application so please don’t let that cloud us making good decisions on how to proceed.” 

Councillor Earle then expressed, “It’s not only council that has to approve this, but the citizens of the city and I want to give them a fair chance. I don’t think the general public has a large knowledge of what we’re actually voting on here and what they will see when it’s finished.” 

Ultimately, after nearly an hour of questions from nearly every city councillor about the designs, the item was once again deferred to next month. Raabe was asked by Wren if it was feasible to come back with more information at the next council meeting on Tuesday, March 12. Raabe confirmed he would speak with the consultants before this meeting. 

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