City of Summerside, P.E.I.


Small City, Big Ideas

Sure, it’s always nice to visit, but right now it’s even better to be a resident in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Things are heating up in the island’s second largest city and it’s not just because it’s the summer. CBJ had the chance to chat with Terry Murphy, the City’s Chief Administration Officer, and he filled us in on what the city has been up to and what it still has up its sleeve. 

Better facilities
Like many Canadian cities, Summerside has been focusing on updating its infrastructure. One of the facilities the City has decided to focus on is its wastewater treatment plant, originally built in 1972. The entire primary treatment plant has been upgraded and expanded to improve the quality of municipal water. Now, Summerside has the highest standards of wastewater treatment in the province.

According to Murphy, the plant is now able to remove 95 per cent of the solids that are coming into the wastewater system, along with other products such as phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia. “Summerside built a system that recovers the liquid stream and takes the solids out of it,” he says. “Those solids are put through a process of alkaline stabilization and pasteurization, so we end up with a product that is available to be land-applied as a good additive to soil. Our facility has been operating at less than 10 parts per million in Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and less than one part in nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia.”      

While the wastewater treatment plant has been undergoing renovations over the last few years, there is still room to allocate recent building funds from the federal stimulus package. “We still have a liquid stream with benign discharge that goes into the harbour,” Murphy explains. “We believe that this liquid stream still has value that can be used within the community.”

The City of Summerside sees a solution and is undergoing some discussion about developing an algae growth product using the liquids that are presently being discharged into the harbour. The idea is to grow the algae using the liquid stream and turn it into a biofuel for a district heating system.

Greener energy
Further committing to environmental infrastructure, Summerside is increasing its reliance on alternative energy sources through wind power. “PEI, as a whole, has no natural resources that would allow us to tap into such as hydro generation,” says Murphy. “One thing we do have here is wind; in fact, we are one of the windiest provinces of the country. Summerside, in particular, has some wind regimes that are useful in providing the wind loads to convert into energy.”

At the moment, the City is constructing a wind farm within municipal boundaries to include four 3-MW turbines, generating 12 MW of electrical power in total. The goal is to have all four turbines up and running by November of this year. 

Interestingly, Summerside already has a private contract with West Cape Energy Inc., providing 9 MW of load per wind, so the new wind farm will be a welcome addition. “We’ll be able to serve 100 per cent of our customers 70 per cent of the time—when the wind is blowing,” says Murphy.

The City of Summerside has the only community-owned electric utility on PEI, serving about 7,000 customers in the region. As such, it was bound by provincial legislation requiring utilities to have at least 15 per cent of their power sourced from renewable energy by the year 2010. The contract with West Cape Energy Inc., as well as the wind farm means Summerside gets to exceed those requirements, and ahead of schedule.

The City is also in the early stages of introducing “time of use” meters which will allow them to address more of the energy consumer needs and efficient use of the new wind energy. Meters will be installed that will allow the City to rates that will be tied to the wind energy supply and thus allow each consumer to determine when is the best time to fulfill their supplementary energy needs.

More versatile workforce
The city hasn’t only expanded in its infrastructure; it has also diversified in industry. No longer a region only known for fishing and farming, Summerside is now a hot spot for information technology (IT), retail and aerospace engineering. 

“We have gone through a number of changes in employment over the past few years,” says Murphy. “Summerside has ended up with a greater workforce that is much more diverse than before. One of the main industries used to be military at CFB Summerside which employed military and civilian personnel. When it closed, the land mass was converted into the Slemon Park Corporation—home to PEI’s aerospace industry.”

“We also have the Atlantic Police Academy,” he adds, “which is used to train police officers and other security forces in the area. And the largest single employer within the city is the Canada Revenue Agency, which administers the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from its Summerside Tax Centre.”

Murphy also goes into detail about a major project in the downtown area of Summerside, which is a conversion of an old 100,000-square-foot building. The finished product will house technology jobs—e-Health components, in particular. “We have a major IT firm in there now and two more on the way,” Murphy says. “We expect to have 500 IT jobs there within the next three years.”

Of course, tourism is still a highlight to the community, drawing in theatre-goers to see Anne and Gilbert, as well as visitors to the enticing farmer’s market. As for the economical forecast, Murphy says he’s an optimist and believes tourists will keep coming. “We have worked to develop opportunities for tourists in the area,” he maintains. “And we think our work is a gradual process that will go on for years, whereby the amenities and infrastructure will provide long-term dividends to any tourists that come to the city.”

The most exciting event that is sure to attract a crowd is the Canada Games—a national multi-sporting and cultural event that will be held from August 15 to 29. Summerside will be hosting an Athlete’s Village at Slemon Park during the first week of competition.

Prior to that event, the City will be finished rebuilding its standard-bred racetrack with a new grand stand, stalls and shipment facilities. “We also have a major development project for trails throughout the city,” Murphy says. “Creating a more bike- and walker-friendly space will provide certain avenues of attraction in the community.”

To name one of many more, Credit Union Place is the new recreation facility in Summerside that includes a 3,600-seat dual arena with sky boxes, beach volleyball courts, tennis courts, artificial turf fields, a five pin and ten pin bowling lanes, fitness center and a competition swimming pool. “It’s a shopping mall of recreation facilities,” laughs Murphy. “We want to find a major tenant to build and operate a hotel complex in that area. And that’s on the visionary screen over the next few years.”     

The Summerside of the street
Summerside is expecting great things for the rest of the year and beyond. “We will continue to develop the infrastructure to serve the citizens,” says Murphy. “This has been a major spending year because of the stimulus package and Building Canada money. We have built and upgraded a lot of our infrastructure, in terms of roads and sewers and water facilities. As the physical urban centre from Prince County, we serve approximately 44,000 citizens within the area, so modern infrastructure plays a critical role in the development of healthy, sustainable and vibrant community.”

From the sounds of things, living in Summerside is a wonderful experience. With a variety of services, programs, and recreational facilities, the City is doing its part to give residents excellent opportunities to enjoy their free time and celebrate their home.