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Woolwich eyes capital projects worth $9.8 million in 2015 budget

An artistic rendering of the proposed new fieldhouse for Heidelberg, where the current facility has been condemned. Woolwich is budgeting $300,000. [Submitted]

Woolwich is looking to spend $9.8 million on capital projects this year, the bulk of it on roads, bridges and sewers. The engineering and planning department’s cut of that would be $8.1 million.

An artistic rendering of the proposed new fieldhouse for Heidelberg, where the current facility has been condemned. Woolwich is budgeting $300,000.[Submitted]
An artistic rendering of the proposed new fieldhouse for Heidelberg, where the current facility has been condemned. Woolwich is budgeting $300,000. [Submitted]
Among the pricier projects, the township is looking to spend $2.6 million on reconstructing portions of Woolwich and Dolman streets in Breslau, $1.7 million for various paving projects and $1.2 million for bridge repairs.

Parks and recreation projects, including $300,000 to replace the fieldhouse in Heidelberg, would take up much of the remaining capital budget, ringing in at $1.4 million.

Those figures may change, however, as councillors balked at borrowing money to pay for projects – the budget currently calls for some $725,000 in debt financing. As well, council this week instructed staff to cut two per cent from overall expenditures in the 2015 budget, meaning there may be some cuts on the capital side.

Concerns about taking on additional debt first surfaced at a budget meeting January 22, followed by a consensus Tuesday night to avoid the financing of projects.

Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley noted the township had hoped to pay for a planned repaving of a portion of Benjamin Road through debt financing.

That project amounts to $725,000, plus an additional $117,000 for wider paved shoulders to accommodate cyclists, as approved by council last week.

“We have spent out all other sources of funding,” he said of other projects in this year’s capital budget.

Chief administrative officer David Brenneman said borrowing may have to become more prevalent as funding from senior governments dries up.

The township used to be successful at obtaining grants – a stretch of cost-sharing arrangements whereby the municipality paid a third, with the provincial and federal governments each contributing a third –but the federal government has scaled back such grants, and the province has changed the funding process. Now, Queen’s Park tends to provide funding to those municipalities deemed more in need, he said. In effect, the township is being penalized for being too prosperous by comparison, and for its prudence in building up reserve funds.

Coun. Mark Bauman was not convinced to go that route, however.

“We’re tackling our infrastructure deficit with our children’s dollars,” he argued.

His reluctance was shared by his colleagues, including Coun. Larry Shantz. “We should look at our own house and see if we can finance it properly.”

In a later discussion about the recreation departments capital spending list, Coun. Scott Hahn questioned the price tag, seeing it as rather high for a relatively small building.

Recreation and facilities director Karen Makela noted the cost fell in the middle of estimates gathered for the job, adding the plan is to essentially double the size of the existing structure, which has been condemned. A new facility is needed, as there’s no alternative community space in the village.

To fund the project, the township is hoping to get a grant of $150,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Heidelberg rec. association has raised its $50,000 share. And Woolwich is pushing Wellesley Township, which is responsible for half of the village, to contribute $50,000 – so far without much luck.

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