Based upon this year’s capital works program, the city’s administration is well on its way to paying down a lingering “infrastructure debt” that’s become a major concern over the past few years. Aside from the approximately $20 M that the city now expects to spend on its regular infrastructure program and other asset-based items, the Smith administration also plans to spend another $7M on what Councillor Phillip Cutler described as “special projects.”
Over the next year, Cutler is proposing a total capital works investment of $26.9M that will include paying for three major restoration projects that, in his words “simply cannot be put off,” any longer. These projects will include the repair and restoration of the city’s iconic greenhouse,($5.1M), the repair and restoration of city hall’s exterior walls ($1.6M) and further restorations to the city’s municipal garage for a total of $425,000.
As more than 80% of the total capital works budget will be invested in roads, water and assorted sewer systems as well as assorted buildings, the new budget represents an $8.2M increase over last year’s budget.
“I appreciate that water mains and sewers are not sexy, but our subterranean infrastructure — in some cases — is over 100 years old,” said Cutler. “We ignore it at our peril.”
As the city intends to use its “pay as you go” policy to pay for $16.5M worth of the capital works fees out of its operations budget, Cutler also mentioned that assorted provincial subsidies and grants worth another $3.2M would be used to pay for the balance of the city’s regular ($19.7M) capital works program.
“Furthermore, I want to emphasize that we are maintaining our conservative approach to financing our capital projects,” said Cutler, as he went on to explain that the greenhouse, city hall and municipal garage projects will be financed by surplus funds that were set aside for such purposes in the city’s previous budgets. During a brief interview following the meeting, Cutler told The Suburban that he was pleased with his budget and that he believes that it’s “...a big step in the right direction.”
As the city has already spent more than a decade paying down the debt that was its (nearly $30M) legacy following the 2004 demerger referendum that restored its municipal status as an independent city, Cutler said the money that used to service the city’s debt is now being well used to repair and restore the city’s (sometimes) badly neglected infrastructure.