Residents of the North Bay trailer park have formed a committee to save themselves from eviction.
They met on Wednesday in a dark, dusty warehouse in Red Wing. Seated in a circle on ten wooden chairs, they tried to figure out a plan. The province’s Water Security Agency has issued an order to shut down the park’s aging sewage lagoon. If nothing’s done by a September deadline, more than 50 homeowners will have to vacate their lots.
“We all want to stay here,” resident Linda Dewhurst said. “The majority can’t afford to move.”
The night before, a few of the committee members sat in on a call with the park’s owner, James Wankel. The existing lagoon, he told them, is almost impossible to upgrade. There’s a patch of government land about 1.5 kilometres south, and Wankel says he’s looking into it. But he fears it could cost about a million dollars to build a sewage system from scratch.
“Like James said, he’s only willing to spend up $350,000 for a lagoon,” Mike Layton told the committee. “He probably won’t go that far. So the city probably is our only option.”
Wankel has been pushing the City of Prince Albert to approve a hookup to their sewage system. But Mayor Greg Dionne has come out strongly against the idea. He said the city has some spare capacity, but it’s reserved for new development within city limits.
“So what’s the next plan of action then, go to the city somehow?” Mick Kuchirka asked.
“That’s our next plan of attack,” said Greg Howat.
The first leg of their strategy will focus on the administration: the planning department, public works, the city manager. They’ll try to schedule appointments and argue their case. Then they’ll push for an audience with council. If they hit a wall with the city, they’ll try to win support from the citizens of Prince Albert.
“I think we write up a petition and we take it to a few businesses in the city,” said Howat, “because we all work, we all shop, we all pay our bills in the city of Prince Albert.”
Wankel has proposed to spend about $250,000 on a hookup to the city line – the amount he was quoted by the rural water utility. The residents don’t understand why the city won’t sign off on the deal.
“We’re not asking them to pay for it,” Howat said.
“Approve it,” said Layton. “All you need is approval. Then James signs the cheque.”
Apart from capacity issues, Dionne said he has concerns about liability. The sewage lines could overflow, he warned, putting the city at risk of a lawsuit.
For more on this story, see the June 2 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.