Barriere’s Solar Aquatics Reclamation Centre (SAWRC) was built in 2017 and although expected to be a state of the art system connected to a septage receiving station it has proven to be a long way from meeting the District of Barriere’s expectations. (Jill Hayward photo)

Barriere’s Solar Aquatics Reclamation Centre (SAWRC) was built in 2017 and although expected to be a state of the art system connected to a septage receiving station it has proven to be a long way from meeting the District of Barriere’s expectations. (Jill Hayward photo)

Barriere ready to tackle sewer system problems

CAO says focusing on improving downtown core is now first item on the agenda

The District of Barriere’s water system is now upgraded with the addition of a new well to serve the town.

District CAO Bob Payette advises that by all reports this well does not produce the brown coloured water created by particulates from the residual effect of iron and manganese as was experienced with the Bradford wells when they were connected to the system.

“Now that the water upgrade has been done the next item on his agenda will be the downtown septic system,” said Payette in an interview with the Star Journal last week.

“Council has given me direction to focus over the next year on the downtown core area, and the first item will be looking at the downtown sewer plant situation, as well as looking into the potential of a sewer line down Barriere Town Road.”

The Solar Aquatics Reclamation Centre (SAWRC) sits behind the Fire Hall in the heart of Barriere and was constructed in 2017. At the time it was considered to be a fairly new state of the art system that includes a septage receiving station designed to allow for safe septic tank disposal by using plant and bacterial life to clean its liquid and solid waste to an acceptable standard.

Unfortunately, since its construction the system has struggled with a number of problems, including an ongoing problem of efficiently separating the solid and liquid waste as it should. This problem then causes a smell to emanate from the plant which the district attributes to the fact that the sewage coming up hasn’t had enough chance to separate. Many modifications to the system have taken place over the past few years to try to correct this problem but a number of residents in the immediate area continue to report unpleasant smells in the downtown area, especially during the summer months.

Will the SAWRC plant ever be able to work the way it should?

“No,” said Payette, “It kind of works a little bit right now as a finishing kind of situation, but it hasn’t done what it should have done from the start. Our operators have actually made the system quite efficient over the last couple of months, doing a great job with not a lot of money, and we are almost to the point where we are meeting our regulatory requirements – which is no easy task. This next year we are going to focus on the downtown core and septage receiving for sure, and dealing with that smell will be a part of that.”

Is the district planning to continue with the septage plant, or is the municipality looking at scrapping it and going to a sewer system in the downtown core instead?

“It’s an option. We’re looking at all the options as we do various reviews and studies,” answered the CAO, “We don’t want to throw money out the window, so we are going to make sure that the next few steps make sense.”

The district is currently working on an application asking for a federal infrastructure green grant to improve the sewer system in the downtown core.

In addition, Payette advises he will be bringing a capital plan to council in the next few weeks for 2022 projects which will include more focus on Barriere’s downtown core, including a number of projects that are community related and similar to improvements completed this summer at the outdoor hockey rink, and playgrounds.

“Our residents will see more good things coming,” said the CAO, “However, all things cost money, and my list is always bigger than what we have funds for. It’s council’s job to prioritize the projects to what makes sense for the community and we will be doing that exercise over the next couple of weeks.”

To date, Barriere has been fortunate in the fact that most of the capital infrastructure projects the district has embraced have been funded by grants. As a result, the district’s reserves “continue to build and remain available for infrastructure maintenance and rainy days”.

Once Christmas is over council and staff will begin reviewing the district’s budget for 2022. The new year will also be the fourth year for the current mayor and council, with the municipal election scheduled to take place on Oct. 15, 2022.

“It’s been a good year for council,” said the CAO, “Obviously they are eager to see some more growth, and we have been able to look at more rezoning opportunities to address some of the trends that are happening. One of the trends obviously being people from the big cities wanting to move to smaller towns. One of those ideal small town locations is Barriere, that’s why we have more than 10 new houses currently being built, and local realtors reporting no end of calls for housing or rental housing.”

Can the municipality help to provide more housing opportunities in Barriere?

”That’s something that council really has to tackle,” said the CAO, “We’ll be looking at areas where we can rezone, working with developers, and being pro-active, which is what council wants to see. There is substantial growth and there are a few new businesses coming to town, these businesses produce jobs, and people coming to work in the businesses need a place to live.”

He noted that now the Louis Creek Industrial Park lots have all been sold and businesses have moved in, approximately 40 to 50 new jobs have been generated for the area as a result.

In terms of more housing opportunities planning is currently taking shape due to a partnership with Yellowhead Community Services to construct an affordable housing apartment building in the downtown area. Although the design and site plan are already completed Payette says this will be at least a two year project while the lot is subdivided. Final approval must be granted by the Ministry of Housing for the funding, which is tied to checking off the development permit, water and sewer capacity, and subdividing the land.

“It’s imminent, but it just takes time,” said the CAO.

A new subdivision in the Dixon area (approximately 20-25 five acre lots) is also in its beginning stages with the developer and the district actively working on the project.

“One of the key components was to have a boundary extension, which was recently approved,” said Payette, noting the boundary extension means the tax base for the District of Barriere will benefit.

Now it is up to the developer to press ahead with the development application and to work with the municipality in providing confirmation that he is able to provide road structure, water, sewer, a water feasibility study and more, all required to get development application approval.

Would this new subdivision be serviced by the Barriere water system?

“It could be,” said Payette, “It’s an option. But right now it is up to the developer to go through the next steps and my job is to facilitate the process in moving forward and to keep council informed.”

What are the plans regarding a future municipal hall for Barriere?

“We can’t just not think about it, because the school board owns this building, and we’re a growing town. If there is an opportunity for us to find a way to develop offices downtown that would be a better situation for everybody.”

Payette explained the cost to renovate the district’s H.Y. Louie building, that sits next to Interior Savings on Barriere Town Road, remains dependent on future partnership opportunities that may present themselves to assist in the renovations.

There are also plans to expand the firehall a fourth time as an additional bay is needed due to having one more engine than the hall has bays. Hopefully an Emergency Services grant will become available for this project in the near future.

In regards to providing more housing for seniors, Payette says the district is already looking at ministry of housing and additional grant opportunities that may present themselves to create more senior accommodations in the community.

“There is space, and there is a need for senior’s housing, we just have to find a way of getting it done,” said the CAO, “Although there are no current plans at this time to extend the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence, Mayor Stamer is really keen on looking into senior’s facilities. If we don’t do it, no one will.”

Although this year’s heat wave provided for a tough summer in many respects for plants and trees, Barriere parks have come through in pretty good shape.

“We didn’t lose too many trees as our guys managed to pull it all together and keep things going,” said Payette, “In 2022 we’ll see more upgrades to Barriere parks, more trees, more playgrounds, more lighting, and washrooms over by the outdoor hockey arena.”

Snow removal contract bidding for the district received three bids with the contract awarded to Burrow Contracting Enterprises Ltd. from Clearwater.

“Mr. Burrow is excited to be part of the town. He realizes he’ll be new and there will be some trial and error as they get used to the roads and learn the routes. It won’t be perfect right off the bat, but when the snow flies they will be there,” said the Payette.

The water line that runs under the Barriere Town Road Bridge was inspected last year and was noted to be in need of repair. Has that been done?

“We had another inspection and it is still in fair condition. It hasn’t changed since last year.” said the CAO, “It will remain on our capital projects list, but it doesn’t need to be done right away.”

Payette added he is looking forward to his next year as CAO for the District of Barriere, especially now that council meetings are once again open to the public.

Members of the public wishing to attend District of Barriere Council meetings are reminded masks must be worn and social distancing requirements are adhered to. It is expected that vaccine requirements in any B.C. public building may be on the horizon.

Payette concluded by saying, “The good news is we have turned the corner on the water situation and now we can start focusing on future growth.”

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District of BarriereNorth Thompson Valley