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City's oldest reservoir due to be replaced

Most retirement parties don't cost $21.7 million – unless you are talking about an essential piece of St. Albert's water distribution system.
City of St. Albert

Most retirement parties don't cost $21.7 million – unless you are talking about an essential piece of St. Albert's water distribution system.

The city's oldest reservoir, located in Sturgeon Heights, is nearing the end of its life, and construction is expected to begin on a new reservoir and pump station in 2022.

Kevin Cole, the city's director of utilities and environment for Infrastructure Services, said city workers repaired the structure last winter and discovered the reservoir's condition was worse than expected.

The reservoir is composed of several concrete storage tanks. The corner joint on one had deteriorated to the point where workers had to empty one of the tanks completely and reseal the whole area to make sure it would hold water.

That spurred them to move up the timeline for the reservoir's replacement.

"It's been in our capital program since almost the inception of the utility rate model, but we just moved it ahead one year because of the urgency of the repairs that are required," Cole said.

The reservoir was built in 1957 and had tanks added on in 1966, 1972 and 1973. It holds nearly 23,000 cubic metres of water – or 23 million litres – and is one of three reservoirs in St. Albert that work in tandem to get water moving to residents and businesses.

Its last major repair was done in 2010 and 2011 to the floor and some corner joints to add about a decade to the structure's life.

Coun. Sheena Hughes described the price tag on replacement as "a little bit of sticker shock."

However, Cole said at this point more repairs would not extend the structure's life long enough to justify the cost.

"We've been doing maintenance on it for a number of years and the deterioration of it is getting to the point where it needs to be replaced sooner than later," he said.

While the reservoir is not in danger of failing completely, water leaking into the ground means lost revenue for the city, and further deterioration of the tanks could threaten the quality of the water supply.

"For the neighbouring properties around it, we wouldn't want that to continue to leak," Cole said.

The reservoir will stay in service while the new one is being constructed. Cole said the city has done a preliminary review of the site and there is enough space to build the new structure next to the old one.

A project charter for the replacement, which members of the governance, priorities and finance committee reviewed on Monday afternoon, notes the city plans to start on preliminary design and cost estimates in 2020, with a full design coming in 2021 and construction in 2022.

Big bills coming for utility capital

The reservoir's replacement has the biggest price tag out of any project currently in the city's 10-year utility Repair Maintain Replace (RMR) capital plan.

The governance, priorities and finance committee reviewed the plan's utility and municipal RMR projects on Monday. Councillors have until May 22 to move any amendments and are set to vote on June 25 to approve the plan.

As it stands, the plan proposes $141 million in spending on utility repairs, maintenance and replacement over the next decade.

While annual utility RMR spending varies between $7 million and $11 million, with $8.9 million suggested for 2019, the vast majority of the proposed spending comes between 2021 and 2023.

The suggested budget for 2021 is at $21.4 million, with higher costs coming mainly from a jump in spending on the storm drainage systems in Deer Ridge.

Sturgeon Heights' reservoir replacement brings the suggested budget for 2022 to $35.5 million.

In 2023, the suggested budget is $20.3 million.

On the municipal side, the proposed capital RMR plan has $280 million in projects over the next 10 years.

For 2019, the city has whittled down municipal RMR costs to $28.3 million – a decrease of $7.2 million, coming mostly from reconstruction of Fire Station 1 being deferred to 2020.

For both utility and municipal RMR costs, the city dips into its reserves and grants to pay for projects.

Financial Services director Diane McMordie said changes to the plan won't affect the tax base.

April Hudson

About the Author: April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette
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