Whitewater reviews its $5.5 million 2021 capital projects budget

·7 min read

Cobden -- Whitewater Region council reviewed the 2021 capital projects draft budget, which totals just over the $5.5 million mark.

There are five ways to get revenue: gas tax; reserves, debt, grants and taxation. Of the five ways, debt is the biggest one, at just over $4 million.

Treasurer Sean Crozier reviewed the capital projects budget with council at its November 18 meeting held via Zoomfor the public, but in council chamber for council members and staff.

­The payment debenture schedule for 2021 are for 10 projects: Haley and Cobden water treatment plants and Haley distribution; Beachburg distribution on Morris Street and Cobden sewer on Hwy. 17; solar panel; construction for five streets -- Truelove, John, Crawford, Anderson and Watchhorn; a backhoe and tandem truck; fire rescue and fire pumper, fire tanker and excavator.

“There is a significant amount of capital work to do,” Mr. Crozier said. “The debenture schedule are all payments that are currently in the operating budget. However, there are no last payments for 2021.”

Mr. Crozier broke down the expenditures based on where the funding for the projects is coming from.

Under the grants category are the Beachburg Arena Septic at $80,000 and the seniors task force at $25,000.

The reserve funds will also be used for fire forestry equipment at $20,550; fire portable pumps at $30,000; vehicle for the building department at $37,500; internet and cell tower, $65,000; museum gazebo, $7,500; vehicle for recreation department, $40,000; park equipment at $10,000; upgrades to Veterans Memorial Park, $12,000; Phase 1 of the Westmeath Cenotaph, $5,000; $9,500 for a wide format printer/scanner; mobile hoists, $60,000; asphalt hotbox trailer, $55,000; four signalized pedestrian crossings, $54,000; $100,000 for Kohlsmith Road, $50,000 for Rapid Road; $45,000 for Westross Road; fuel tanks for Pembroke and Area Airport, $50,000; storm outlet on Rafting Road to Ottawa River, $75,000; and further decommissioning of Industrial Park, $23,125.

Projects to be funded through reserves and grants includes $25,000 for the Beachburg Arena Chiller; $80 for the Westmeath Boat Launch repairs; $15,000 for the front counter at the municipal office in Cobden while the Beachburg Arena Accessibility study of $13,924 is to be funded through reserves/taxes.

While there was a concern about taking “a significant amount” from reserves, Mr. Crozier said it will remain at $1.2 million by year’s end, which is a fair amount.

When discussion turned to the Beachburg Arena expenditures, Councillor Daryl McLaughlin said, “We only own the building, not the land. Why not let the building go if we don’t own the land?”

There was no answer.

There were some concerns about purchasing the trucks for the recreation and building departments. Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay said council continues to hire more summer students and since they don’t all work together, they are with different staff, which means providing a vehicle for the parks department, which will be used to ensure the beaches remain clean and the grass cutting is done and boat launches looked after. The building department truck has over 175,000 kilometres and since Doug Schultz no longer picks up dogs when there are complaints, the larger truck he currently drives is no longer necessary.

The signalized pedestrian crossings are for the three schools in the township. There will be two in Cobden, one in Beachburg and another in Westmeath, Mr. Crozier said.

When discussing the internet and cell tower, Deputy-Chief Jonathan McLaren noted it’s being erected primarily for increased communication for the fire department. However, there will be space available on the tower for use by internet and cell providers, he said.

Debenture Projects

As for the upcoming debentures, he said, “We need to service the needs of our infrastructure and use tools that are at our disposal.” Interest rates are the lowest he has seen in years. “We use debt for projects that benefit the township.”

There are six expenditures to be financed through debentures.

There will be double surface treatment, road realignment and safety improvements to Olmstead-Jeffrey Lake Road at a forecasted expense of $2.7 million and $230,000 for Grace Street in Westmeath.

There was much discussion about the projects.

Councillor Charlene Jackson drove the Olmstead-Jeffrey Lake prior to the meeting a final time, and said, Highway 17 to Lefty Lane definitely needs to be done. but Lefty Lane to Magnesium Road is okay.

“We can get away with not doing that part now, but do it at a later date,” she said.

There are a few potholes, but no more than what other roads in the municipality have, she said.

Coun. Jackson said she has difficulty spending $2.7 million on a road that is used by locals only.

“The traffic counts are low,” she said.

Grants Settlement Road is the highest travelled road in the township, especially in the summer, she said.

She noted this road was originally constructed for cottages, but in the past 25 years, more residences have been built and cottages converted to full-time residences.

“We have allowed this to happen,” Coun. Jackson said. “We have ended up with larger homes, permanent residences and more traffic.”

Councillor Daryl McLaughlin disagreed with Coun. Jackson.

“Try driving (that road) with a 72-passenger bus,” he said.

He recalled meeting a bus coming in the opposite direction.

“I’d be surprised if there weren’t track marks left, and I don’t mean just from the tires,” he said.

As for Grace Street, she felt there were other streets that could be done first.

Mr. Tremblay noted a lot of roads in Westmeath were done pre-amalgamation.

“We will be reconditioning all the roads,” he said. “We are doing this one now because of the crosswalk, kids and church.”

Councillor Neil Nicholson noted the school board recently purchased more property behind Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Westmeath, which means it is investing in its school. However, he suggested that instead of putting in a sidewalk, the road be widened.

Mr. Tremblay said while staff feel there is a need for a sidewalk, which is a way of getting the students safely to school, that could be discussed when it’s time to do the construction.

The other debentured projects are $250,000 for streetlights; $450,000 for grader/brush head; $300,000 for a tandem plow truck and a $175,000 drum roller.

Through taxation, expenses include $25,000 for the crawler loader overhaul that is at the landfill; Ross Landfill expansion feasibility study, $25,000; traffic assessment equipment of $8,000; $8,000 for flag poles; $32,000 for Rapid Intervention Team Kit and SCBA for the fire department; $30,000 for bunker gear and helmets for the firefighters; $10,000 for computers; $7,000 for a photocopier; $15,000 for the job evaluation joint project and $20,000 for the active transportation plan.

Engineering projects for 2021 include Crawford Street in Cobden and the intersecting streets of Jason and Meadow.

There are three ready-to-go projects once grants are available – Simpson Street, $500,000 expenditure in Cobden, and two in Beachburg -- Hume Street, $400,000 and Cameron Street, $850,000.

The gravel roads program for 2021: Calvin Road (Orin Road to pavement); Blind Line (Kohlsmith to Acres roads); Fletcher Road (Grants Settlement Road to dead end and Government Road to Sams Road); McGonegal Road (Indian Road to overhead bridge), Acres Road (Kerr Line to Queens Line and Stoppa Road (Highway 17 to Behm Line).

Public Meetings

Mr. Crozier noted upcoming budget meetings include Nov. 25 (tonight) for fees and charges and user pay budgets and a final budgets presentation on Dec. 2. A public meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9 with the budget being adopted through by-law on Dec. 16.

All the meetings are held via Zoombeginning at 4:45 p.m. and can be watched on the township’s Youtube page. For those who would like to preview the draft budgets, they will be on the township’s website as of November 27.

Questions and submissions should be submitted b y Dec. 4 at scrozier@whitewaterregion.ca.

To sign up to speak at the electronic meeting, contact clerk Carmen Miller, ext. 123 or cmiller@whitewaterregion.ca

Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader