In this last week before elections, I will be blogging about the issues as I see them and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years. Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues. I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me. I am willing to discuss them.
In the past few years, this Council has requested infrastructure studies so that Council and staff can continue planning the ongoing repairs and maintenance that is required to keep our community sustainable. Each study allows us to review past progress and look forward up to 20 years. It is an ongoing process that is mandated by the Ontario Municipal Act.
The release of he most recent consultant’s report on September 8, 2014, was thorough and controversial. It is true that the Council was surprised at the severity of the issues found in the study, however, a few individuals have propagated a lot of misinformation to the public that made it sound far worse than it is.
-SIDEBAR- See “Further Reading” at the end of this post for references and links to the reports. Copies of these and all other reports, Agendas and Minutes, presented to Council can be viewed free of charge at the Public Library or from the city’s website.
The report’s conclusions were not a total surprise because everyone is well aware that Port Colborne has some of the oldest water and sewer related infrastructure in the province.
-SIDEBAR- Visit the engineering department on the second floor of city hall to see samples of “wood” water pipes and other ancient technology that were pulled out of the ground during Market Square and area upgrades a few years ago. Even though these pipes needed replacing, it’s amazing how long some of this infrastructure has lasted! It is a testament to our forefathers’ skills.
City Council has been actively working on this ongoing file. The repairs and maintenance performed in the last 4 years were in plans that were drawn up by previous Councils as long as 20 years ago. This report will help Council and staff plan for the next 20 years.
It is important to remember that no government body has all of the financial resources required to do everything on once. Each issue must, therefore, be given a priority based on the strategy of fixing the worst issues first. It has proven successful and has resulted in replacing the pipes and sewers that posed the greatest risk to public health and safety. The proof is in the report numbers: Water retainment has improved an incredible 12 points to 72% since the last report delivered to Council four years ago!
In discussions with other municipalities, we have learned that Port Colborne is better off than most.
Unfortunately, the media misinterpreted the report and incorrectly reported to the public that the current water loss was more than 40%. This number represents the estimated loss at the conclusion of the previous Council term in 2010. What’s worse is that many candidates, some of whom were present during the report’s release and know full well what the truth is, have insisted on propagating this erroneous information as part of their campaign platforms. They have also spread rumours that taxpayers will be slammed with a 20% increase in next year’s tax bill. Ladies and gentlemen, any Council that raises taxes that high would be irresponsible to say the least. The only thing irresponsible here are the candidates that are purposefully discrediting this Council by falsifying the TRUTH about Port Colborne taxes.
Just as previous Councils have received the same types of reports and used them for planning, this report has made this Council aware of the items in need of immediate attention. Council and staff have already responded by beginning to adjust the planning of future work to reflect this new information.
Anyone that suggests that this Council has no plan is irresponsible and has delivered an insult to all of Port Colborne’s constituents.
Detailed studies are nothing new for Port Colborne or any government. I have been involved in the same process many times in the past 19 years. The reports are always good tools to help the next Council with developing appropriate project plans and financing. To do otherwise is not only illegal, it is irresponsible.
Infrastructure projects cost money and often they represent significant expenditures. City staff are always looking for new funding from upper tier governments. (i.e. provincial and federal). It takes a lot of time to locate the right funding programs because each one must be used only for the specific projects that are included in the application. We take advantage of as many of these programs as possible to minimize the impact on the municipal taxpayer. Typically, two thirds of a project’s costs come from these sources. The last third is the responsibility of the municipality and it is usually obtained by issuing “debentures“.
Debentures are bonds that have many advantages and usually help to limit tax increases. As a debenture matures and is paid off, the funds released are used to leverage the next debenture. There is no additional taxpayer cost, therefore, it allows the city to plan and execute infrastructure projects responsibly. The city has debentures maturing in the next few years and as they do, newer projects can be financed.
The city staff did a great job of locating upper tier funding for the current #1 priority project; the replacement of the Lakeshore Road West water and sewer mains. Through their efforts, the city was awarded $2M, or more than 71% funding! This was a most unexpected and welcome bonus and means that the city taxpayers are saving more than $133,000!
The city has also applied for funding to upgrade the seriously degraded Ward 2 water and sewer infrastructure in the Nickel Street area. Upper tier funding of about $4.8M will result in the city’s contribution being estimated at $2.4M.
Another Ward 2 project that is rising to a high priority is the repair and improvement to the storm sewers for Wellington, Humbolt Parkway, Clark and Janet Streets. The design and engineering is complete and now we wait for funding. This project is “shovel ready” so that when that funding is awarded, the work will begin almost immediately.
Your Ward 2 Councillors have been active in informing Council of the need to complete these long overdue projects. Our ongoing efforts to advocate for our east side neighbours is proof of our commitment in getting the job done. We want to see our neighbours thrive and enjoy a better quality of life. We also live in this ward and these issues impact us, as well! We get it!
Further reading: The “Water Distribution Needs Study” and “Storm Sewer Needs Study” reports as presented by the consultant to the City Council can be reviewed in this Council Package, 08Sep14. See “Committee of Whole”, Executive Brief, pgs 7-8, and Reports # 2, 3.
Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you. Read more about me and what I will do for you. If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my Frequently Asked Questions. Feel free to contact me with your own comments and questions. Thank you for your continued support.