As this region celebrates the 60th anniversary of the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, communities along the river face an uncertain and costly obstacle to their financial and infrastructure stability. Iroquois, Morrisburg, Ingleside, and Long Sault are all products of shoreline infrastructure that was established in the 1950’s to allow for the creation of the power pool and shipping channels for the Seaway. Now, sixty years later, that hastily built infrastructure is crumbling. This has led to a ticking time-bomb that could cost all South Dundas and South Stormont citizens in the future.
At a special June 19th South Dundas council meeting, it was learned that a water and sewer project on Ontario Street will run over budget due to issues with Seaway-time infrastructure. Luckily there have not been any issues with storm sewer lines running under buildings, but Ontario Street begs the question: how many more unexpected infrastructure problems lie ahead? Sections of South Dundas’ village infrastructure are fast approaching their best-before date. What is more troubling, this is all happening at the same time. This risk to municipal budgets is too high. Finding repair funds through the usual means of government grants and loans will be difficult.
One solution. Could government entities like the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and Ontario Power Generation, two of the largest property owners in South Dundas, now be required to pay their fair share of taxes based on actual assessments? OPG pays $110K annually in lieu of paying property taxes. The SLPC pays just $5,444 per year for the vast amount of land it owns in this community. Paying fair market value taxation on these government holdings would assist municipal governments in keeping up with renewal commitments.
Another solution would be to create a special infrastructure fund for Seaway communities. Seed money for such a fund could come from a portion of the revenue OPG and SLPC earn from their properties in South Dundas and South Stormont. In addition, profits from any future land sales from these crown agencies could help build a pool of money earmarked for infrastructure over the next 10, 20, or 60 years.
It is clear that moving forward on infrastructure is going to require help from multiple levels of government. Putting in place a stable funding mechanism now will lessen the financial burden faced by all levels of government, and all citizens, in the near future.