1.3 C
Monday, January 27, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Woolwich considers borrowing for road maintenance work

Councillors split on staff direction to acquire debt to finance road works

Falling behind on road and bridge repairs, the township is looking at borrowing money for such projects, something it’s typically reserved for more tangible assets such as the Woolwich Memorial Centre. While staff sees it as a sound financial option, councillors had some concerns Tuesday night as they discussed the proposed capital budget for 2020.

The township is looking to spend $10.4 million on engineering projects, part of a $15.5-million capital budget. On tap for 2020 are bridge costs of $1.5 million and paving projects valued at $2.7 million, a list that includes stretches of Chilligo, Spitzig, Maryhill and Middlebrook roads, along with Sideroad 16.

Other expenses include piggybacking on Region of Waterloo reconstruction projects on Hawkesville Road, a cost to Woolwich of $500,000, and Kressler Road ($443,000). Lining sanitary sewers will take another $1 million.

While some of the projects can be funded through reserve funds and development charges, much of the road and bridge work is funded directly from the tax levy, making debt financing a good alternative, suggested director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe.

Putting off some of the work slated for this year would save money, but would only add costs to future years, compounding the financial concerns down the road, he added.

“There are a number of pressures and stresses on the capital side for Woolwich.”

Agreeing the work needs to be done to tackle the township’s infrastructure deficit, Coun. Patrick Merlihan argued administrators should instead find savings elsewhere in the budget to pay for “needs versus wants.”

“We don’t like debt,” he said. “Your roof needs fixing, so fix the roof, but do it within your budget. If your roof leaks, you fix it. You don’t go on a Disney vacation this year.”

Coun. Murray Martin also had reservations about borrowing to pay for road work, pointing to an ongoing deficit in infrastructure projects.

“If you have a debenture this year … what about next year? And what about the year after?”

The discussion prompted Coun. Scott McMillan to suggest the township look at increasing its longstanding special infrastructure levy, which this year is expected to be 1.5 per cent.

He was also open to the idea of borrowing, suggesting that if the debt carrying costs, which would be $50,000 to $100,000 over ten years, are lower than the future cost of redoing the road after it’s left to deteriorate, then it’s good debt.

He argued there’s some urgency to getting the infrastructure file in order given that years of growth have not paid for itself, leaving even greater future costs.

“There are different ways to look at debt,” agreed Mayor Sandy Shantz, noting that future generations will pay for the work, but will have use of the assets.

Director of finance Richard Petherick said the debt option is being considered in part because the township has two such debentures set to expire in 2021 and 2022, freeing up payments that would be almost equal to the $900,000 in borrowing being proposed for road paving jobs.

“We’ve got needs all over the place,” he said, noting debt financing would be a way to keep the projects on track, otherwise “something is going to give.”

“We’ve got more needs than we have resources,” Martin pointed out.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of four meetings council has set aside to deliberate the 2020 budget. Talks resume tonight (Thursday).

Steve Kannon
Steve Kannonhttps://www.observerxtra.com
A community newspaper journalist for more than two decades, Steve Kannon is the editor of the Observer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.


Choir to bring the sounds of Africa to Elmira

Updated Jan 21, 2020: Due to unforeseen circumstances the Watoto Children’s Choir travel has been delayed, so sadly we will have to cancel our upcoming concerts on  January 17th & 22nd in...

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Water and sewer rates to rise again this year, as Woolwich approves budget

Flush with cash or otherwise, you’ll be paying more again this year for turning on the taps and taking care of business in...

Sugar Kings lose for the first time in 2020

A couple of streaks came to an end Sunday as the Elmira Sugar Kings played their lone game of the week: the four...

Jacks post first loss of 2020, but post wins on either side

A four-game winning streak to start the new year having come to an end Saturday, the Wellesley Applejacks rebounded Tuesday night to post...

Job vacancies become harder to fill in the townships

It’s becoming increasingly tough for employers to find the right candidates to fill vacancies, particularly in local and rural areas, says a new report...

EDSS student wins U.S. baseball scholarship

It’s January and nowhere near Florida, but St. Jacobs’ Blake Jacklin is in a baseball frame of mind. That’s not a passing fancy,...

Applejacks extend winning streak to three

The new year continues to be good to the Wellesley Applejacks, who picked up a pair of wins over the weekend to make...
- Advertisement -