City approves $40 million capital budget
Colborne Street bridge gets closer to reality despite lack of discussion at council
After a line-by-line review of the 2022 Kawartha Lakes capital budget, council approved about $40 million in spending. This approval could produce a 6.2 per cent tax increase for local homeowners when the new 1.5 percent capital improvement levy is added to tax bills for the first time in 2022.
Mayor Andy Letham told council they would go through the budget item by item, and that until everyone was comfortable with what they have in front of them the deliberations would continue.
Significant discussion focused on plans for the Colborne Street bridge, city fleet purchases, information technology upgrades, a boat for the fire department, plans for the new paramedic station, arena repairs and which councillors’ roads would be given priority for repair and/or replacement.
Another bridge for Lindsay
The first flashpoint of the day was $400,000 in the capital budget for engineering plans for the Colborne Street Bridge.
Councillor Pat Dunn wanted to know what the timeline is for the bridge, and was surprised to learn that plans for the bridge are to be delivered sometime in 2022.
“I must have missed the discussion that the bridge was a fait accompli,” Dunn said. “We have not had nearly enough discussion on a bridge that will cost taxpayers $12 million. I am not comfortable with that $400,000 being committed.”
Mayor Andy Letham reminded Dunn and council that with thousands of new homes being approved for construction in the east ward, a second bridge across the Scugog is necessary.
Councillor Emmett Yeo backed Dunn, noting there was no conversation about the bridge.
Letham did admit that a specific discussion had not been had, and asked Director of Engineering Juan Rojas to share with council where his department was with the project.
“A need for a bridge was identified at this location in 2010,” Rojas said. “We also looked at Thunderbridge Road. The Colborne Street option was determined to be the most effective and was cheaper. We need a second bridge by 2024-2025 and we estimate the cost at $8-12 million. We know the houses are being built. The Wellington Street Bridge is under stress.”
Councillor Ron Ashmore wondered if all the environmental studies done in the 1990s by the municipality (then Victoria County) about a potential second bridge would have to be redone.
“A new environment assessment will not have to be done,” Rojas said. “It was updated in 2012 and it confirmed again that Colborne was the best location.
Deputy Mayor Pat O’Reilly there’s “a thousand plus units in the east ward alone being constructed. Colborne Street is the best place for this (bridge) to happen.”
A vote, proposed by Dunn, was held regarding eliminating the plans for the Colborne Street crossing. In the absence of Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, the vote ended tied at 4-4 with councillors Ashmore, Dunn, Yeo and Elmslie voting in favour of the motion to remove funding for the bridge project. However, council protocol states that in the event of ties the motion put forward fails. The Colborne Street Bridge survived a close call, and is now one step closer to being built.
To buy or not to buy
Councillor Doug Elmslie then focused on city fleet purchases. He wanted to know what the chances are of the city actually getting the 17 new pickups and two snowploughs that were called for in the 2022 capital budget. Elmslie asked if their purchase should be put off until the supply chain issues in the automotive sector correct themselves.
Letham answered, “If we don’t order soon, we will be at the back of the line.”
Councillor Andrew Veale, who works in the automotive industry, told council, “Most dealers will not be bidding on city fleet purchases this year because they have no supply. Municipalities should expect to pay more and wait longer for their vehicles.”
Director of Roads Bryan Robinson told council that the city has a fleet of 67 pickups. He added vehicles are not even considered for replacement until they are at least 10 years old.
“We will manage equipment until the new stuff becomes available,” Robinson said.
Councillor Ron Ashmore wanted to know why the city doesn’t lease its trucks rather than purchase them.
“Leasing makes sense only for the first nine months of the contract,” Robinson said. “After the first nine months it is less expensive to purchase. We also have to remember that when a vehicle is returned off lease all repairs must be done and considering the way our vehicles are treated that could be very expensive.”
Council decided to go ahead with the vehicle purchases for 2022.
Information technology issues
Councillor Doug Elmslie also wanted to know why some kind of backup computer servers are not included in the city information technology budget.
“The city should have backup servers,” Elmslie said. “We can’t afford outages, or the city going off-line.”
Director of corporate services Jennifer Stover told the councillor that a report listing potential options including accessing the cloud or sharing an emergency centre with other municipalities are being considered.
Dunn then questioned why the city was going to spend $250,000 to upgrade their data infrastructure to fibre optic.
“Is this expenditure necessary,” Dunn asked. “At what point is fast fast enough?”
Senior staff told the councillor that the upgrade is necessary for city needs, and the item remained in the budget.
Ashmore wanted to know why provincial or federal broadband gap money couldn’t be used for a project like this.
“That money is set aside for closing the cell gap,” Letham said. “Only private providers can apply for that money. Municipalities cannot.”
A new boat for the fire department
Elmslie wanted to know why $25,000 has been budgeted for a new 14 foot boat for the fire department. The Fenelon Falls area councillor felt that number seemed very high for that kind of purchase.
“We need a deep hulled craft that is workable for the fire services,” replied Acting Chief Jones. “We need to replace the hand-me-down police boats we have been using for years.”
Mayor Letham reminded council that boat prices are much more expensive than many realize, and the new fire boat received council approval.
A new paramedics’ station
Dunn wanted more background as to why the plans for the new paramedics’ station were budgeted at $600,000.
Paramedic chief Randy Mellow told Dunn that the design cost was based on a percentage of the overall cost of $6 million. Mellow also shared it was a very complex project with seven smaller paramedic halls being folded into one. The plan is for the new building to be open and operational for 2023-2024.
The design costs were approved by council.
Dunn asked for an explanation from the city regarding $3 million dedicated to a new ice pad at the Lindsay Recreation Complex.
“Pads need to be replaced every 25 years,” Director of Recreation and Culture Craig Shanks replied. “The Lindsay pads are the busiest in the system and the oldest. The pads are now 34 years old. We will be replacing the pad, the piping, the headers, the boards and the glass.”
O’Reilly asked about the timeframe for the repairs and was told the work would be done this summer and the arena would be ready for the next full winter season.
Council seemed satisfied by the answers they received and the multi-million dollar repair was approved.
Councillor Tracy Richardson asked that $700,000 worth of improvements for the Manvers Arena be added onto this year’s capital budget.
Mayor Letham was supportive of the inclusion. “The Manvers community has committed to this arena. Locals have raised over $80,000 during a pandemic. This money will clean up almost all the work at Manvers. This will show our commitment to Manvers Township.”
Councillor Andrew Veale agreed, saying it is “important to recognize a community that has rallied around their arena. Those people need to know that their efforts haven’t fallen on deaf ears.”
Dunn interjected asking, “Why didn’t council not give the people at Ops the same opportunity rather than just shut them down in one fell swoop?”
The Lindsay-area councillor received no response from staff or the mayor to his inquiry, and the Manvers repairs were added to the 2022 budget.
On the subject of Ops Arena, Deputy-mayor O’Reilly, whose ward contains the facility, asked Shanks what about the status of the roof repair at Ops. A leak was discovered when the facility was used as a polling station in last October’s federal election.
“The city has no intention of spending any capital money on this arena. We are expecting a replacement facility to be built on that spot. Money will be found in the operating budget to repair the leak,” Shanks shared.
Despite a significant portion of the capital budget already dedicated to road repair, pulverization and replacement, councillors O’Reilly, Veale, Ashmore, Elmslie, Richardson and Yeo came to the meeting with extensive lists of roads not in the 2022 budget that they hoped get added.
Very few of the additional roads suggested by councillors were added to the 2022 lists. Almost all were forwarded for consideration and study in the next five year road plan beginning 2023.
Councillor Richardson pushed hard that a number of poorly paved roads in her ward be pulverised and returned to being gravel-only thoroughfares. Her argument was gravel roads are easier to maintain and manage rather than just endlessly cold patching paved roads that are deteriorating to the point of being unsafe.
Veale suggested something similar saying some roads in his ward “are so bad that they need to be completely replaced rather than being repaired time and time again.”
Yeo caught council by surprise when he said that if Baseline Road in Ward 1 was not repaired this year, he might as well not run again for council. Yeo said people have been waiting for at least three years for this road to be repaired, and they are tired of the city’s inaction. His comments struck a chord with fellow councillors as Baseline was one of the few new roads to be added to the 2022 capital budget for immediate repair.
Debate on the city’s much larger operating budget begins next Tuesday, with council hoping to set the final taxation rate increase before they adjourn for Christmas break.