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Sunday, February 23, 2020
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Wellesley approves new lighting for two of three ball diamonds, awaits fed funding

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Two ball diamonds in St. Clements will get new lighting this year, while a third diamond in Wellesley village is being left in the dark after the work was determined to be more expensive than previously thought.

Faced with the prospect of a budget overrun, Wellesley councillors opted Tuesday night to replace the lighting at just two of the three ball diamonds in the township, where the old posts had been torn down late last year due to corrosion.

The work, which will see new light fixtures installed at the St. Clements west and east ball diamonds, was awarded to Huron County-based Clark Multi-Trade Contractors Inc. at a cost of $97,000 per diamond. The lower diamond in Wellesley village, meanwhile, is being excluded until more money can be found, or a new budget is set next year.

“If we don’t have the money this year, we don’t have it,” said Coun. Herb Neher. “The sky’s not going to cave in because that diamond is not going to [have lighting] for the one year. To go over budget, or to use our reserves … I personally have a problem with that.”

The township had initially set aside $260,000 in the 2019 budget to replace the lighting at all three diamonds. However, that amount proved to fall short of even the least expensive tender received. At $97,000 per diamond, or $291,000 total, there would have been $31,000 gap to fill.

“The budget number that was passed in the capital budget process was based on a pre-budget amount that we received in October,” explained Danny Roth, township director of recreation. “Unfortunately, the company that gave us that pre-budget bid did not put a tender in. So that’s where the shortcoming came.”

Mayor Joe Nowak was reluctant to exclude Wellesley village from the infrastructure project. He noted that the township could be due for a sizable shot of funding from the federal government.

“Just recently, like in the last two hours, the federal government has come out with their budget, and what they have agreed to do in their budget is, on a one-time basis, to double the gas tax commitment to all the communities,” said Nowak. “That means a windfall for this community of around … $340,000.”

The Federal Gas Tax Fund is a major source of infrastructure funding to municipalities, and was budgeted at just under $341,000 this year – accounting for 11 per cent of the capital spending this year. Doubling the fund would see the township receive a total of $782,000 in funding for capital projects in the community.

Coun. Shelley Wagner countered that the gas tax funding was typically put towards road work in the township, and suggested there were better uses for the money.

“Traditionally we’ve used that [money] for roads,” said Wagner. “And I think we have a lot of road stuff that could probably benefit from as much of that as we can spare for it.”

Councillors ultimately decided to give the go ahead on the St. Clements diamonds, and defer a decision on the Wellesley diamond until more information was available on the new federal funding.

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