North Huron approves decommissioning of Howson Dam
Despite concerns that council members weren’t privy to all the correct information, North Huron Township Council voted 4-2 in favour of proceeding with the decommissioning of the Howson Dam.
During council’s Monday night meeting, it voted to award a tender for the removal of the dam to Roubos Farm Service Limited for $1,036,777.60.
Interim Director of Public Works Chip Wilson said the tenders received had been reviewed and approved by RSS Engineering and, despite a small error in calculating the price, Roubos was the lowest tender, with Looby Construction coming in nearly $300,000 more at $1,335,609.18 and Vandriel Excavating coming in over $650,000 more at $1,698,865.03.
Councillor Mitch Wright, however, wasn’t content with the move, questioning a number of aspects of the current and past staff reports.
First, Wright said he couldn’t find any history of Roubos Farm Service Limited taking on similar roles, while he said there were numerous examples of Looby Construction doing so.
“I’m curious what similar projects Roubos presented as evidence of their experience doing this work,” he asked Wilson.
Wilson said he couldn’t directly answer that, but since GSS Engineering had previously worked with the company, he felt they would know. He also said he had addressed the issue with B.M. Ross and Associates and heard a similar endorsement.
Wright then said he had two issues with the proposal: one, that the reports of the former Director of Public Works were flawed and council didn’t have all the information to make an informed decision, and two, that the funding proposed, according to his research, wasn’t possible. He added that, if council did approve the removal, it was taking serviceable parts of the dam out alongside the parts that needed to be replaced, adding that even the latter could be used as a base for a new structure.
First, Wright said that staff had said the committee of council had recommended rehabilitation, however that term wasn’t properly defined for staff or council, leading to a misunderstanding. He said the reports from the consulting firm Chant Engineering indicated that such a project could be completed.
Wright then said that the majority of the funding is coming from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), however his understanding of the fund made him think it couldn’t be used for demolition. He said if he was mistaken and it could be used for that, there are other projects that the municipality should undertake first.
Deputy-Reeve Kevin Falconer said the former council had made its decision, and that each member of council has over 40 years of reports to inform their decisions. He then said the question before this council was whether to proceed or not, and that Wright’s further investigations would need to be dealt with after the vote.
After more debate, council did vote on the motion. Councillor Anita van Hittersum requested a recorded vote in which Wright and fellow Wingham Ward Councillor Lonnie Whitfield voted against the recommendation, while Falconer, Reeve Paul Heffer, van Hittersum and Councillor Ric McBurney all voted in favour. Councillor Chris Palmer was absent from the meeting.