FOR THE GAZETTE
County Council faced deliberation when discussing next steps and commitments to fixing the municipality’s aging roads and infrastructure in the coming year.
On Monday during the first budget meeting, Amanda Carter, Director of Finance, gave council an overview of the $9.7 million capital budget, which focused largely on County roadways.
The bulk of the budget – $6.2 million is allocated to roads and infrastructure, which Councillor Janice Maynard decried to as “disgraceful.’
“We by far have the worst roads in a very large rural radius around us. Not even close,” she said. Maynard mentioned a majority of calls and comments made to council are very often on the condition of County roads.
“The only way we are ever going to fix that is by putting money towards it and having a good list,” she said.
Several other councillors shared concerns with roadways and the impact they have on residents. Councillor Andreas Bolik said it boils down to enhanced transparency with County residents to prioritize road projects and a timeline on when they can be expected to take place.
Maynard stated the County is now paying for not putting away enough money over the last 30 to 40 years.
“We cannot pass this on to the next council – to the next generation,” she urged. “Our roads are disgraceful. They need to be fixed. We need to find the courage to put the money towards fixing our roads. Please.”
She continued to say she believes taxpayers would accept a tax increase if it were put towards the care of County roads as a high priority.
Councillor John Hirsch suggested that staff and council look at borrowing funds to extend the list of roads requiring repair, given interest rates are at an all-time low. He said $2.4 million would become $23 million of road construction.
He referenced Monday’s discussion, noting Director of Finance, Amanda Carter laid out the high amount of approaching debit that would cause the municipality hit its 24 per cent ceiling for debt service.
“Mark my words, this time next year, I think that’s the direction we should look at heading toward,” Hirsch said.
Another issue several councillors had concerns with revolved around why the roads list for 2021 changed from the one presented last spring.
Adam Goheen, Director of Operations said upon further review, the list was adjusted. The 2021 decisions were made in conjunction with a previous assessment from 2019 and the information that came from this year’s review.
“The data has been refined and reviewed since council saw it last. That coupled with our own field review of the various candidate roadways has led us to the list you have before you today,” he said.
Examples from the road resurfacing list includes, but is not limited to, Bethesda Road, County Road 13, the entire stretch of Brummell Road, County Road 7, Clarke Road, Salem Road, Stinson Block Road, Victoria Road, the entirety of Christian Road, Cressy Bayside Road, Prinyers Drive and Prinyers Road.
The list is always changing and being able to let residents know a specific timeline for road construction.
County Road 49’s completion was not mentioned, which is projected to cost $21 million to fix.
Director of Development Services, Peter Moyer, said the County is in a “transitional” year when it comes to the development of a Roads Needs Study. The hope, he said, is to have asset management software in place next year, as many roads fall in a failure status. This would help with long-term planning to address roads based on level of need, he said.
Picton Main Street’s rehabilitation is the largest of the upcoming projects, projected to cost a total of $3.1 million to cover Bridge Street to Spencer Street. An additional $2.4 million on the roads budget is attributed to road resurfacing.
Moyer said the infrastructure on Picton’s Main Street is approaching 70 years old and Is at the end of its life with a deteriorating road and underground services.
“New sanitary forcemain is needed in order to support a new sanitary sewer pumping station scheduled for construction in 2022 which is part of Picton East Servicing project,” the budget report explained. “This project needs to occur prior to the Picton East project and the Picton East project needs to occur in 2022 in order to support replacement of the expired pumping station and other developments such as Wellings, Folkard Land and the new HJ McFarland Home.”
Another $1.2 million of the capital budget is for the purchase of new vehicles and $1.1 million for building and lease agreements.
In other budget news, there are several building redevelopment projects coming down the latter for 2020.
Council delved into the McFarland Home redevelopment at a cost of $500,000. Other significant items include the Shire Hall renovation, priced at $300,000 and the Crystal Palace restoration at $279,000.
Director of Recreation of Community Facilities, Lisa Lindsay told council 80 per cent of the building is rotten and a complete restoration over three phases is needed to save the historic landmark.
Beside the Crystal Palace, the Youth Park will also need work to receive a new surface at a cost of $55,000, Lindsay shared with council. At the time of installation, just over 10 years ago, the surface was installed incorrectly, which Lindsay called “a complete fail” due to dangerous elements that need to be redone.
Council continued its weeklong budget discussions Thursday.