Petrolia Mayor John McCharles calls it an “excellent situation.”
Town Treasurer Rick Charlebois says the town’s debt load is about 50 percent of the maximum allowed by the province. “Next year it will be down to about 45 percent,” he told The Independent.
A debt load analysis prepared for town council shows Petrolia needs to budget $1.12 million for loan repayments this year for some major road works but also for larger projects including the Petrolia Farmers’ Market, work at the water treatment plant and the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
The loan for the centre will be paid off by 2016 as will the work on the water treatment plant leaving the town with only $265,000 in debt that year – if the town doesn’t borrow money for other projects.
Mayor McCharles says it is an enviable position to be in. “This is an excellent situation,” he said during Monday’s council meeting “better than I’ve ever seen. By 2015 we’ll be basically debt free if we don’t borrow any money.”
Charlebois says it is likely the town will have to take on more debt for road works particularly the Florence/Kerby Street reconstruction which could cost upwards of $2 million. However he’s hopeful the town might be able to secure up to 90 percent of that cost from a new provincial grant recently announced by the government. Usually, municipalities foot at least 33 percent of the cost or bear the weight of the whole bill themselves since federal and provincial grants have been drying up.
Town staff have been directed to apply for the grant, but McCharles says it remains to be seen if the project will gain funding since every other small municipality in Ontario is also clamoring for infrastructure dollars.
“We may not get all of that, we may get part of it and we may get none of it,” McCharles says. “We are basically competing with other projects in Ontario.”