St. Clair to hold the line on capital project spending in 2016


Bonnie Stevenson/Special to The Independent

St. Clair Township is holding the line on its capital spending in 2016.

Council has given preliminary approval to a capital budget of $5 million, the same as 2015.

Both the capital budget and the upcoming operating budget present substantial challenges in 2016 as the township loses $97,000 from the OMPF provincial grant as well as tax revenue from the now closed Lambton Generating Station,  says Mayor Steve Arnold.

“It won’t be until the operating budget is done that we will understand the full extent of any challenges,” says Arnold.  He says the challenge is to sustain services and infrastructure while taking a responsible stance on proposed projects. Arnold says staff is searching for federal and provincial grants to get some projects done without putting an extra burden on ratepayers.

“It wasn’t an an easy time for us sitting around the table,” says Arnold, adding the basics were given top priority to ensure the municipality would be properly maintained. “We’ve honoured all life cycle commitments to maintain our facilities and equipment. We need to keep our infrastructure current, so we’ve maintained spending on road resurfacing and a lot of drains have to be done.”

The remediation of the bridge over the St. Clair Parkway diversion channel (the McKeown floodway) south of Sombra will be among the infrastructure projects that will be undertaken. “A bridge inspection study will be done,” says Arnold, adding  the bridge is showing signs of deterioration.

“Some preparatory work is being done on projects that can’t be done this year but will be done in 2017 and 2018,” he says. Pre-construction work will be done on First and Second Streets in Courtright and Duncan Street in Brigden.

The township hopes to save money by converting to ebilling. New software is being purchased to replace the current system of mailing out each bill. Director of Finance Charles Quenneville saysthe cost of mail-out billing for water and waste water charges is quite substantial.

Overall, Arnold is pleased. “In past years, we’ve spent a lot improving water systems, public spaces, and keeping community infrastructure in good shape,” he says. “This budget continues that process. Staff is preparing for the future and that’s always positive in my mind. I’m very satisfied.”