The two-year saga to find land for a new lagoon to service North Bay Trailer Park could come to a close next week.
The application to build a new lagoon on a 160-acre parcel of land approximately two miles west of Highway 2, near Red Wing Road, will be up for a vote Monday at the Rural Municipality of Buckland’s council meeting.
The new structure is needed to replace the failing system for roughly 65 dwellings at the park. If a plan for a new lagoon cannot be decided on before September 1, authorities from the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) have said work will begin to decommission the old lagoon, meaning all 200-odd residents of the park could be forced to move.
A public hearing for the application in early June was punctuated with periodically heated exchanges and rapid-fire back-and-forths from a crowd heavily opposed to the project.
Owner James Wankel fielded an abundance of questions during the hearing and attempted to quell some concerns. Tuesday, he told paNOW he believed the vote to be a “slam dunk” but was hesitant it could still go either way.
“At this stage … there is no reason to say, ‘no,’” he said, noting the RMs planning department has fully backed the proposal. “This is as good as it is ever going to get. It is affordable, it is a [good] option and it's within the range and requirements."
Wankel reiterated how he is at his wits end in this battle, as he has exhausted every option available and things can’t “hobble along” for much longer. He said he has dumped thousands of dollars into endless studies and engineering fees only to hit brick walls up to this point. While he is willing to let most of those expenses slide, as it is the cost of doing business, he said his liberal attitude could sway should Monday’s vote not fall in his favour. Wankel said he is not afraid to seek legal litigation on the matter and start playing hardball with all levels of government.
"This is it. If it doesn’t go [the right] way, it is going to get ugly," he said. "Any judge would look at this and say 'this is pretty clear-cut.' ... It could be serious, legal fees alone."
Wankel would like to make a greater investment in the park to spruce it up and improve the bounty of affordable living spaces but is unwilling to do so until he has more clarity around the situation. He also deflected fears residents would have to vacate anytime soon should a no vote come down, as the WSA and the courts, he believes, would recognize he has done everything in his power to find a solution.
“Will people get evicted? No. They are not making us go anywhere. ... No one is removing the residents from North Bay, because they will have to go through me and my lawyers," he said.
During the public hearing, the greatest concern pertained to uncertainty around the project's future. Many worried if, down the road, sewage trucks will start hauling additional waste to the site, which could add stress to a road already not in the best of shape, according to residents.
Wankel said he was initially willing to possibly examine the option of letting other people dump into the lagoon, more so as there is talk the city could soon stop accepting septic from outside its limits. But he may walk back the offer after the outcry of opposition at the hearing.
"I am just trying to solve my issues and was open to helping the local community,” he said.
He also maintained area residents will hardly notice the lagoon is even in the area. He said there are only two homes within one kilometre of the proposed site, a steep contrast from the 80 homes within 900 metres of the current lagoon.
“I am fully confident no one is going anywhere and that park is not going anywhere,” he said. “But time will tell."
Reeve Don Fyrk was not willing to comment on the subject prior to the vote when reached by paNOW.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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