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Woolwich set to approve slew of capital projects as part of 2016 budget

A $3.2-million plan to reconstruct a portion of Woolwich and Dolman streets in Breslau tops Woolwich’s list of some $13 million in capital spending slated for this year.

Also on the list is $744,000 for work on Old Scout Place and another $625,000 for construction on King Street North, both in St. Jacobs. Another $1 million is earmarked for work on township bridges and culverts, including structures on Durst Road, Glasgow and Hill streets.

This year and next, Woolwich will spend $432,500 to convert all of its streetlights to LEDs.

About three-quarters of the expenditures given tentative approval by council last week fall in the engineering and planning department. Repairs and upgrades account for most of capital spending in the recreation and facilities department. Specifically, $314,000 for a new roof at the St. Jacobs fire hall/warehouse building, $300,000 for an accessible entrance to the seniors’ centre at the WMC, $250,000 for a lift at the Breslau Community Centre and $150,000 for the arena refrigeration system at the WMC.

Also on tap is $300,000 for a new field house/community centre in Heidelberg to replace the condemned building in the park.

While some funding issues remain, that project should be the highest priority, said rec. and facilities director Karen Makela, taking part in her final budget meeting before retiring last week.

“I would stress that this is your number-one priority in facility replacement,” she said, noting the community currently has no public space for gatherings and events.

The $300,000  project, however, is right now contingent on a $150,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and $50,000 from Wellesley Township, as Heidelberg straddles the border between the two municipalities. So far, Woolwich has made no progress with securing funds from its neighbour.

The remaining funds would be supplied by Woolwich ($50,000) and the community through its rec. association ($50,000).

Depending on how talks with Wellesley go, Woolwich may have to look at finding additional funds for the project, she noted.

Looking at other expenses on the list Coun. Patrick Merlihan questioned yet more equipment costs at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, a building that opened in 2009.

“The current unit has multiple concerns,” Makela said of the refrigeration plant for the rinks, adding the WMC has seen more expenses than forecasted. “This building has been a challenge.”

The facility has also seen a number of retrofits despite its relative newness. That includes new lights to counter electricity bills that go well over budget (this year, for instance, the township is adding another $100,000 to cover those costs).

Reducing electricity costs are at the heart of the streetlight retrofit plan. The goal is to replace all 2,100 streetlights in Woolwich with LED units to save energy and maintenance expenses, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

“From a cost perspective, this is a very attractive program,” he explained of the “amazing savings” to be had.

The township is joining all the other municipalities in the region in the makeover project, going in together to maximize savings – there are 40,000 streetlights region-wide.

Kennaley said the move is expected to provide energy savings of 65 per cent. The township spends about $155,000 a year on electricity for the lights, so it could save about $100,000 annually. Coupled with lower maintenance costs, the $865,000 total price tag could pay for itself in less than seven years.

“The return is very quick,” he said.

While Wellesley is using debt financing to pay for its retrofit and Waterloo is funding it through the sale of surplus land, Woolwich likes what Kitchener is doing, essentially self-financing through the use of a negative reserve fund.

Coun. Mark Bauman said he preferred the idea of the township in essence borrowing from itself by offsetting investment gains that would be much lower than the cost of borrowing.

“If we can fund it internally, that makes more sense to me.”

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