Last week South Dundas council received an report on the state of the municipality’s bridges and culverts. The report on South Dundas’ 33 bridges and culverts points to $7.5 million in capital needs in the next 10 years. That report says that the municipality has a history of under-investment in infrastructure spending and in the past 20 years the municipality has spent only one-quarter of what should have been spent on this critical infrastructure. This is just the latest in a series of issues that have surfaced in the past three years.
Since late 2018, multiple band-aids placed by previous councils have fallen off. Water towers, landfills, compost sites, roads, sewers, municipal drains, storm sewers, and buildings have all had issues. Past councils have fixed some issues: many of those were the aforementioned band-aids. Hoping for a magic pot of infrastructure money from upper levels of government is not the best way to pay for infrastructure.Yet this has been the mantra of previous councils.
Time has run out on many of these issues during the past three years. The band-aids will not stick anymore. After taking office in December 2018, this council had had to deal with landfills, closing one and buying contaminated lands for another. That’s $2 million spent, and the decision on the future of the Matilda landfill is still pending. Two water towers have been refurbished at a cost of $2.2 million. While those costs are paid for by the water users, this is still significant spending by the current council. The failure of the Taylor Road Bridge is the latest of the big-ticket projects council has to deal with, and it relates to that bridge report. That is another $1.5 million project we have to pay for because past councils were more worried about keeping below two per cent tax increases.
Delaying decisions costs money. The past inaction by previous councils has us all on the hook now for more money to make hard choices about the infrastructure we want in South Dundas. It may mean that agriculturalists will have to drive a five kilometre route to get to fields they own on the other side of a river, or that a levy will be added for specific users of a facility. But there is a greater cost to kicking the can down the road.
Past inaction means we could miss out on building some great new “nice to have” projects like a multi-sports facility, or improvements to our waterfront parks because we must pay to fix the basics first. Just like home owners who put off repairing the roof to paint the living room, in the end you end up with a costly mess.
Sweeping issues under the carpet in the hopes of others bailing us out has gotten South Dundas into this mess. The only way to get out of it is to spend more, make difficult choices, and do more with less. Tough times call for tough actions and we now get to reap what past inaction has sown.