Woolwich and Wellesley are among the municipalities to receive a one-time funding grant provided by the province to help modernize and improve services.
Woolwich will receive $725,000, Wellesley will get $676,050 and the neighbouring Township of Wilmot benefits $725,000. Some $200 million is being doled out to 405 municipalities across the province, under new funding announced last week by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.
Each municipality’s funding is based on the number of households and whether it is urban or rural.
Woolwich chief administration officer David Brenneman said the announcement was not expected, and that more details needed to be sorted out before allocating the money.
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“Receiving the money was a welcome surprise,” said Brenneman. “All we know at this point is what we’ve read in the letter, that it would go for the modernization and transformation of the delivery of any of our services.
“One example, if it fits within the province’s criteria, could be with respect to modernizing our water meter reading to make sure that, through the use of technology and innovation, you can do remote reading. That would make things far more efficient and effective, for example.”
Local leaders were also happy to discuss the funding last week. Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz, Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris and Wilmot Mayor Les Armstrong met in St. Jacobs to discuss the announcement.
“Balancing financial resources with the desire to transform and modernize services for our residents is an ongoing challenge,” said Shantz. “We are excited to be able to review our priorities and to have the funding to make improvements that will lead to great efficiency.”
The rural municipalities in particular have been benefitting from government funding as of late – earlier in the month, it was announced that rural and northern communities could qualify for infrastructure funding that would go towards road, bridge, air or marine projects. Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot are eligible for money in an intake that runs until May.
“I am very pleased that the province recognizes the importance of effectively serving our citizens at a local level,” said Nowak. “This funding will allow the township to explore ways to find efficiencies in the services we deliver and to ensure that our local government is providing cost effective operating methods.”
It is not crystal clear which projects the money could be used on within the township. According to information released by the province, examples might include service delivery reviews, IT solutions, development of shared services agreements or capital investments. It will be up to the municipalities to decide how to best target funding to benefit their local communities.
“That’s ultimately what we believe the province is looking to do, for small communities to use this enhanced funding to innovate and use, where warranted, technology to improve things,” said Brenneman.
The province’s announcement didn’t specify when municipalities will receive the funds nor when the money might have to be spent.
“This is a crucial investment for our small and rural municipalities, especially here in Waterloo Region,” said Harris, the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga. “The townships of Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot will receive funding this fiscal year to improve service delivery and drive efficiencies for the benefit of local taxpayers.”