Rodney Bouchard, manager of Union Water Supply System, addresses Essex town council on April 16, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Union Water Supply System Seeks To ‘Remove The Shackles’

A primary source of water for some Essex County communities wants a structural makeover.

The Union Water Supply System (UWSS), which supplies drinking water to some residents in the municipalities of Essex, Kingsville, Lakeshore and Leamington, is asking each of those communities for permission to restructure itself into a municipal service corporation.

For that to happen, however, UWSS needs all four municipalities to agree to the plan, since each holds a stake in the system.

Addressing Essex town council Monday night, UWSS Manager Rodney Bouchard says the motivation behind the plan is so that the system can have more autonomy in planning projects. He says the current system keeps the UWSS from efficiently making that happen.

“We can’t get grants, and the other issue that we can’t do is we can’t go to the banks and get loans to do our own planning and funding,” says Bouchard.

According to the report submitted to the town council, UWSS must currently ask each municipality to apply for a loan on its behalf, so the new structure would cut out the middleman and make it more likely for funding to be approved.

“We’re just trying to remove the shackles,” says Bouchard. “We can’t plan the future as well as we want to.”

Under the proposed restructuring, the four communities would become shareholders instead of tenants, with shares determined by the amount of water use in each town. Shares would be redistributed accordingly every four years. The UWSS board of directors would consist of elected representatives from each municipality.

Bouchard says consumers will not see an increase in their water bills, but instead see a portion of their bill set aside.

“If there’s one thing they may notice, it’s that in the water bill they get, they might see a portion that says 10% of their fee is attributed to Union Water Supply System,” says Bouchard.

Kingsville has already considered the plan, and it will now go before Essex’s administration.

Bouchard says they will visit with Leamington at their April 23 council meeting and with Lakeshore the following evening. If all four are on board, Bouchard says he hopes to have the incorporation in place by this summer.