County sets aside cash for fiber optic Internet plan

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Lambton county councillors are setting aside a large portion of a $734,000 budget surplus to help pay for a project to bring fiber optic Internet service to all of southern Ontario.

Lambton County’s General Manager of Finance, John Innes, reviewed the county’s year-end financial position in a report to council explaining the surplus which is equivalent to about one per cent of the county’s budget.

Innes says two factors lead to the large overrun – not a lot of snow and an unexpected fine payout at the provincial offences court.

There was a lot less snow in 2015 than there has been the past two years. Innes says public works spent $329,000 less than expected for snow removal.

And he says an unexpected $500,000 fine at the Provincial Court also padded the bottom line. In November, Shell Canada plead guilty to releasing mercaptan at its Corunna plant. That led to dozens of members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation becoming ill. The judge fined the company $500,000 and that fine money is returned to the county.

Innes suggested, and councillors have agreed, the surplus should be put into reserves for future use. A special reserve will be set up to pay for the SWIFT project.

Wardens from across southwestern Ontario are trying to convince the federal government to invest in a fiber optic network in the region with nearly a half billion-dollar price tag.

Lambton has been slow to join the project mainly because politicians are concerned it could be more than two decades before everyone gets the service.

While the county hasn’t committed to the project, it still hasn’t rejected it either. The councillors agreed to set aside over $400,000 in a reserve for the first two years of the project, should the county agree to it.

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