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Townships receive big bump for infrastructure

As the townships prepare their 2022 budgets, they’ve got more provincial money to dedicate to infrastructure projects. Some $3.8 million in Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich, to be precise.

The money from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) is part of an additional $1 billion the provincial government announced as part of last month’s fall economic statement.

“The funding will allow each township the financial stability to address their unique challenges in working towards economic recovery, renewing and building infrastructure, and creating jobs and opportunities for local communities,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris in an announcement December 17.

Woolwich director of finance Richard Petherick said the additional funding follows recent increases in OCIF – in 2021, the $631,000 the township received went into road-paving projects. The increase for 2022 will bring the total to some $1.4 million.

“That’s a $780,000 increase, which is absolutely fantastic,” he said, noting the extra funding should allow the township to pursue more of the projects identified in a road-needs study.

“We’ve been using it for a lot of our hot-mix resurfacing and maintenance paving – our capital paving program – and this just allows us to continue that level of investment that we’ve been making the past few years.”

In Wellesley Township, the funding for 2022 amounts to $987,000, an increase of $486,000 beyond this year’s grant, said treasurer Saleem Sandhu.

“It’s a fair amount – $486,000 is a quite high amount in terms of what we were getting before,” he said. “This will help a lot in our capital projects.”

It’s a list that includes upcoming work on Park Street in St. Clements and Queens Bush Road in Wellesley, as well as several bridge projects.

Increased funding from the province will help the township tackle the list, he said.

“Every municipality tries to fund their capital projects through putting money in reserves – and that indirectly comes from the taxpayer – for future projects. This amount will help us a lot to reduce our contribution to reserves and use this money for our capital projects,” said Sandhu.

The new funding is part of a provincial push to help with infrastructure projects in rural and Northern communities, said Harris.

“This is something that’s really been on the books for a while now. Our commitment is to bring this [funding] to $2 billion over the next five years. We’ve seen about a billion of that already out the door. What it’s for is to repair roads, bridges, water and sewer infrastructure, those types of things,” he said, noting the region’s townships have all had big increases. “It’s a pretty substantial bump from what they would have gotten last year.”

Longstanding infrastructure issues may have become even more pronounced given the pandemic-led shift of people from the Toronto area to smaller municipalities, he added.

“I think it’s a testament to us really paying attention to what’s going on from a growth perspective in our rural communities, as well,” said Harris.

“A lot of people have moved into the area here, and being able to keep up with the infrastructure needs with an influx of residents is very important. You certainly don’t want to start getting behind in these types of projects.”

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