A large slate of public works projects and new equipment will see Woolwich drop more than $19 million on capital spending this year.
The majority of the proposed costs, some $11.5 million, involve roads, bridges and sewers under the umbrella of the township’s engineering and planning services.
The spending plans won tentative approval from councillors meeting Jan. 26 at a special budget session.
Reconstruction projects on Elmira’s Snyder Avenue North/William Street ($2 million) and Green Warbler Crescent ($1.1 million) lead the list of road works. The township also plans to spend $2.6 million on paving, led by work on New Jerusalem Road and Crowsfoot Road, where tree removal is already underway and a proposed widening of the road will depend on the extent of funding from senior governments.
Other larger projects include $793,000 for work on Old Scout Place in St. Jacobs, and $769,000 for sidewalk work along Sawmill Road in Conestogo.
In assessing the $873,750 earmarked for bridge repairs and analysis, councillors questioned planned spending related to three old steel-truss bridges on Glasgow Street, Peel Street and Middlebrook Road. The latter, in particular, is contentious given that it has been closed for years and would likely need to be replaced at great cost.
“They’re multi-million dollar bridges that get very little traffic,” said Coun. Mark Bauman, referring to the structures as “expensive dinosaurs.”
The township is proposing to spend $50,000 for an environmental assessment and culvert work along Middlebrook Road, with Centre Wellington Township coordinating an assessment of its long-closed Weissenberg Road bridge at the boundary line. Bauman noted the only real option is to make permanent its emergency closure
“I don’t see that being a through road ever again,” he said, objecting to the study.
Jared Puppe, the township’s acting manager of engineering, noted the townships have to go through a formal assessment process even if the decision is to do nothing – they can’t simply just close the bridge on a permanent basis without the consultation process.
“I still can’t support it, and I won’t support it,” Bauman responded. “It’s pitiful that we have to spend that kind of money to do the obvious.”
Between the studies on the three bridges, Woolwich is looking at a bill totalling $100,000.
Looking at the capital budget in relation to a long list of projects identified in the township’s roads needs study, Coun. Scott Hahn said infrastructure projects should be a priority, including perhaps boosting the 1.5 per cent special levy for such projects.
“I think that we’d be foolish not to act on the daunting information it presented,” he said of the roads need study.
“We’re not even paying the minimum on the credit card.”
He pressed the issue again at Tuesday night’s council meeting, suggesting the township ramp up the special levy to five or six per cent over the next few years. The idea wasn’t embraced by his colleagues, however.
“We’ve got to balance it off somehow that it’s affordable to the public,” said Coun. Larry Shantz, noting the township has been funnelling money from assessment growth (about three per cent this year) and its surpluses into its infrastructure reserve fund.