/Lax attention to infrastructure catches up on Minden Hills

Lax attention to infrastructure catches up on Minden Hills

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Inflationary pressures have increased the costs of fuel and materials needed by Minden Hills’ Department of Public Works.

That truth was easily shown by changes in line items in the proposed 2023 capital and operating budgets over just last year. Council was given a look Feb. 9 at what the department is working in its portion of the proposed 2023 capital and operating budgets 

The first draft of the town’s tax supported budget has a tax levy of $10,548,880, for an increase of $829,395 or 8.53 per cent over 2022. Factoring in assessment growth that occurred last year, the opening salvo in the budget battle hoisted a 7.54 per cent increase to taxpayers.

But that’s just a first draft.

As part of the 2023 budget process, council will get a detailed look at all capital projects budgeted for in 2022 but not yet completed. Trisha McKibbin, the township’s CAO, said that information will be included in the next draft of the municipal spending plan.

Mayor Bob Carter said he’d like to see a total of all costs for all of last year’s outstanding projects.

“I’d like to see the total amount of money that we have to spend on infrastructure/roads,” he said. “Don’t tell me where you’re going to fund it or how you’re going to fund it at this point.

“We need to have what the total is, what monies are available in reserves, what money is available through grants. We have to then figure out what the difference is and how we’re going to deal with it.”

There are a number of ways to deal with it that include taking on debt to complete projects or nixing those outstanding projects.

“This is what we have to address,” Carter said. “We’ve underspent in infrastructure for too long and now we sort of have to pay for it.

“So let’s get a total of what the costs are, so we know.”

The effect of changing global markets, supply chain issues and inflation have created financial pressures on Minden Hills’ operating and capital budgets.

Finance Director Greg Bedard said the roads operations budget that’s been prepared for council’s consideration is the Public Works work plan. It details projects the department expects to undertake this year.

The document itself is formatted differently than budget outlines for other municipal departments. And that’s because of the nature of Public Works and its need to be responsive to incidents.

“Oftentimes situations may require Public Works to take proactive action or to shift spending from one program to another dependent on the situation they encounter,” Bedard said.

Quite simply, officials may need to change numbers on the go to address issues as they come up, he said.

“Those would be reported to council at that time,” Bedard said.

One of the changes to the 2023 budget over the previous year is the equipment rental budget has been increased by $10,000 to $15,000, reflective of the unusable state of the Roads office in Kinmount Yard and the need to rent a trailer for staff.

Mike Timmins, the Public Works director, said Haliburton County kicks in some money to help with utilities at the yard, but the rental is completely the township’s dime.

Carter assumed the department won’t rent a trailer forever.

“Is there a plan for this?” he said.

Timmins said engineers will assess all three municipal garages.

“That will help us develop a plan as to how we manage this going forward,” Timmins said.

The purse for 2023 will include other increases brought on by inflation. The fuel budget has risen by $41,450 to $225,000; the heating budget increased by $6,800 to $21,500; and the vehicle repair budget rose by $16,000 to $220,000 because of inflation and supply chain issues that makes it necessary for the township to maintain its vehicle fleet longer.

“In the last number of vehicles that we’ve seen, whether they be here or at county, all the vehicles have come in more expensive than what was the original plan or the original budget,” Carter said.

The department budget includes $882,193 for road resurfacing; $311,080 for gravel resurfacing; $242,477 to convert hard top roads to gravel; $450,000 for the installation of guardrails; and $200,000 for consulting plans.

The spending blueprint also includes $20,000 for fencing at Little Gull Landfill; $30,000 for fencing at Scotch Line Landfill; $375,000 for final fill and closure of Scotch Line Landfill; and $50,000 for steel plates for daily cover at Scotch Line Landfill.