Volume 12 Week 5

Monday, Nov. 19


 

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney



 

 

 

 

Here are three things
the new council
should work on


It’s been 29 years since I wrote my first column for the Orléans Star and in that time I haven’t been shy about given advice to the city council of the day, so why stop now.

Here are three things our newly elected councillors could work on during the next four term.

Item #1 – Infrastructure

I always said the smartest thing Larry O’Brien did during his time in office was pass a two per cent surcharge for infrastructure renewal.

The dumbest thing he did was to get rid of it two years later on the eve of the 2010 election in what was shortsighted move aimed at buying votes.

The money would have raised $20 million a year to be used to help cut into the city’s ballooning infrastructure deficit which was more than $600 million at the time.

The deficit is the difference between the estimated cost to repair the city’s roads, sewers and bridges and the amount of money held in the city’s reserve funds to pair for those repairs.

The money raised by the surcharge was supposed to used to help cover those costs. But rather than put the funds into a dedicated account that could drawn from when necessary, it was put into general revenue and ended up being used for snow removal and keeping tax increases artificially low.

Someone much smarter than me once said that good ideas never get old. The infrastructure surcharge was a good idea then, and its still a good idea today, if it’s implemented properly and managed transparently from a stand-alone account so that residents know what the money is being used for. `

Which brings me to my second suggestion.

Item #2 Roads

You don’t have to be a genius to realize that a number of Ottawa’s roads are in need of repair, and the number keeps increasing year after year.

The problem with infrastructure and especially our road network is that we always manage to build roads without thinking about how we are eventually going to pay to repair them.

When a sub-division is built, development charges are applied to help pay for the infrastructure supporting said sub-division and when they day comes when they need to be resurfaced, repaired or replaced, the money is supposed to come from the city’s reserve funds which are built up through your property taxes.

The problem with that system is two-fold: the development charges are never high enough to pay for the initial infrastructure so the city is then forced to borrow the money; and the money in the reserve funds is never sufficient enough to pay for he repairs when they eventually need to be done, so the city has to borrow even more money to do the work which ends up being piecemeal at best.

But implementing an infrastructure surcharge will only solve half the problem. The other half of the problem is identifying the roads that need to be repaired and developing a model to ensure the repairs are done in a methodical manner.

The first step that needs to be taken is for the city to undertake a complete and thorough inventory of the city’s road network. It would surprise a lot of people to know that no such inventory currently exists.

An inventory needs to be done and the information put on a database that includes the date when the road was built, and the dates when any repairs were done to the road. The database should then be made public, with access available to members of the public.

The database could then be used to help local councillors decide which roads should be repaired first and when. But that would require a new funding model. Infrastructure renewal funds should be placed in a pool and alloted to each ward based on their population on an annual basis. It then should be left up to each councillor to decide how the funds should be divvied up the funds based on need.

Item #3 Community Building

For years the city has followed a cost-recover model when providing city assets like picnic tables, garbage cans and barricades to community events. The effect of the policy has been to discourage well-meaning residents from organizing community events.

The new councillors should reconsider the existing policy and allow residents to use city assets free of charge for community building events that are volunteer driven.

These are just three suggestions that would go a long way to make this city a better place to live, work and play. The rest is up to the new city council..

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

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