Peace Hills Utilities Inc.
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Peace Hills Utilities Inc. is a municipally-controlled corporation (MCC) providing Wetaskiwinites with water and wastewater services. The MCC partnership is comprised of the City of Wetaskiwin, Aquatera Utilities Inc., and Graham — coming together to develop a service delivery structure that meets the following core objectives:
Financing for water and wastewater services is secured while ensuring any debt remains off the City of Wetaskiwin’s balance sheet.
The ownership of assets, the financial benefit of ownership, and control of the MCC are all retained by a board of directors comprised of three Wetaskiwin City Council members, two City employees, one representative from Aquatera, and one from Graham.
Leveraging private-sector expertise to supplement City of Wetaskiwin resources and enable successful service delivery.
In April 2022, Wetaskiwin’s City Council officially approved the funding for the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant to operate as Peace Hills Utilities Inc, a separate entity from the City comprised of a partnership between the City of Wetaskiwin, Aquatera Utilities, and Graham.
The City began exploring wastewater treatment facility options after being mandated by other orders of government to upgrade its wastewater systems to meet new effluent regulations. In 2020, the City of Wetaskiwin conducted a tendering process in the form of an expression of interest and selected Graham and Aquatera as business partners to provide the designs, construction, finances, and operations for the wastewater treatment facility, proposed to operate as a municipally-controlled corporation — a business or organization that is created and controlled by a municipality, with approval from Council.
“With regulatory requirements around wastewater treatment facilities becoming more stringent, we had to be innovative to cover the cost of the mandated wastewater treatment plant upgrade with the grant funding we had available,” stated Sue Howard, City Manager for the City of Wetaskiwin. "Graham’s new approach allowed us to secure all the financing we needed while ensuring financial flexibility remained for other municipal priorities. Additionally, we have an active role in the entire process as an equal partner which is not the norm in most P3 projects.”
Significant upgrades are being made to the City’s current lagoon-based treatment system — including the addition of a new Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) system — to align with the required effluent limits set by the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Through this partnership (referred to as Graham’s Municipal Asset Partnership, or MAP), the City of Wetaskiwin and Graham have reduced the financial burden of the project through cost-efficient private financing — combined with a $12.9 million Alberta Provincial Grant — to fund the $53 million project. With project development complete and financing secured, construction commenced in May 2022 and is scheduled to be completed by August 2024 to meet the deadlines set by the other orders of government.
“Municipalities should not have to give up control of their utility assets to the private sector in order to finance vital infrastructure projects,” said Grenville Riley, Managing Director of Concessions at Graham. “Through Graham’s Municipal Asset Partnership, municipalities now have an equitable solution available to ensure regulatory compliance while maintaining control of their infrastructure.”
“Throughout this project we have worked alongside Graham, the City of Wetaskiwin, and Associated Engineering to ensure a sustainable and affordable utility upgrade is delivered to the community,” said Vaughn Bend, CEO of Aquatera Utilities Inc.
Graham’s utilization of Green Bonds through their sustainable finance framework to finance the project provides a clear indication to the public that the project will have positive impacts on the local environment. The Green Bond designation can only be achieved by projects that meet stringent evaluation criteria, maintain robust reporting practices, and demonstrate the achievement of strictly defined environmental objectives.
For more information about Wetaskiwin’s new wastewater treatment plant, visit [whatifwetaskiwin.ca].
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