We’d like to address the elephant in the excavation…
There are currently numerous open holes in City roadways related to emergency watermain breaks that occurred over the summer, and some remaining from the state of local emergency that occurred last winter. We would absolutely prefer to have already closed them up and repaved – and in normal circumstances we would - however these projects are tied up by our application for Federal funding for a broader replacement project that would see these and many other areas repaired.
For those of you who might not be aware, the City has received $65 Million from the Province, has obtained approval for borrowing of $45 Million, and has applied to the Federal government for a grant of $82 Million - all to be able to replace 26 km of high risk/high likelihood of failure water and sewer mains. If we are successful in getting full funding, this will be a major undertaking that will get us ahead of the near-constant failures our water system currently experiences. Unfortunately, in the meantime, if we conduct replacements in any of the areas that have failed, that work won’t be eligible for Federal funding, transferring a bigger burden of the overall program costs to residents. For example, if we spend $2 million on repairs to the existing breaks, that’s $2 million that we will be taken off of the final grant amount and taxpayers will be responsible to cover it. Although staff and Council have been expending significant energy to get additional revenues through a Resource Benefits Agreement, resolution to port tax caps and payments in lieu of taxes, and development of Watson Island, potential revenues from these sources are still uncertain for 2024.
This has not been an easy decision to make. No one likes to see open holes and detours throughout the community, and we know that residents are inconvenienced by the multitude of road closures impacting access and service delivery in affected neighbourhoods; however, the alternative is those costs being born by residents and businesses in a time of already increasing inflation. That’s why the holes are there, and why they may stay open for the coming months until we hear back on our Federal application. We hope to hear back on a Federal decision soon, but don’t have control of the exact timing. In the meantime, we will absolutely be keeping the community up to speed with any updates we receive. Until then, we wanted to provide this additional context and understanding for the community.
For more information on the water system, it’s challenges, and planned upgrades, see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA3q7cke5TM