NO WATER WELL FOR DOWNTOWN CHESTER
COUNCIL VOTES TO DISCONTINUE PROPOSED PLAN TO CONNECT BUSINESS DISTRICT
BY EMMA SMITH – 05 FEBRUARY 2015
The Municipality of Chester is ditching a plan to bring water to the downtown area, a decision some business owners worry will cripple growth in the village.
At a January 29 council meeting, council decided to discontinue plans for a community well that would service residences and businesses on Princess, Queen and Duke streets.
“We had about six people who were really, really interested and keen, and that just wasn’t even close to the 24 that we required to make it a viable go,” said Marianne Gates, Chester’s economic development officer.
With no village-wide water system, the plan was an attempt at fixing a small part of a much larger issue that’s plagued the village for decades.
“In a modern time, with a supposedly vibrant community, really well off, 45 minutes from Halifax, and it doesn’t have town water? It’s ridiculous,” said Paul Palango, owner of Chez Glass Lass and Kiln Art, which he runs with his wife, Sharon McNamara.
Chez Glass Lass on Duke Street has an above ground pool in it’s basement which collects rain water, but the business is not connected to a well system.
“It’s a huge problem for us because we have no access to water,” said Mr. Palango, who has operated the business since 2007. “If our tenants use too much water in their showers or there is a dry spell, we have to go out and buy water at about $300 a truck.”
The proposed $587,000 project identified Lorldy Park as the best site for the well to have water pumped to a treating facility in the park and then connected to the central business district.
The idea was pitched to residents and business owners last spring when staff went door-to-door with a rough plan. Then, in November, staff told people the estimated price tag was $2,000 to $5,000 a year, plus usage fees.
“Basically, we can’t afford to provide this service for free and it kind of had to be feasible,” said Councillor Brad Armstrong, who represents the area.
However, council needed at least two dozen people to buy into the idea, but after canvassing the downtown area, they only came away with six people who were interested.
Many businesses in downtown Chester are only open during the summer, and Councillor Armstrong said others have already dealt with the water problem on their own by drilling wells or buying water.
But that solution is a costly one for tavern owner Bob Youden. When his surface well dries up in the summer, he has to truck in between $300 and $600 worth of water a week.
“It could be $3,000 a year, but it could also be $20,000 a year depending on how long the dry spell lasts,” said Mr. Youden, who bought rural Nova Scotia’s oldest pub in 2009.
“Over the last six years, the amount of water available has dropped,” he added. “There’s only so much water in the ground, and during the summer months there’s more people in the village, so more people are using the same surface water system.”
Mr. Youden said Councillor Armstrong has fought hard for this issue, but he doesn’t see council making a change anytime soon.
Trucking in water hurts his business’ bottom line, but Mr. Youden is more worried about what it means for the village as a whole.
“The number one way to kill your community is not having a stable water system,” he said. “If we can’t support the ones who are here now, how can you add new businesses to an aquifer that’s already over-stressed?”
Mr. Palango agreed.
He said residents aren’t willing to pay for infrastructure that’s needed in the village, even though they pay some of the lowest municipal taxes in the province.
“Ultimately, what that’s going to mean is [businesses] are going to shut down. It’s never going to be vibrant. It’s never going to take off because you can’t have anything in there that needs water,” said Mr. Palango.
The municipality has voted to stop looking into a community well idea, but both Ms Gates and Councillor Armstrong say they expect the water issue to come up at council again.