2022 Municipal Election – Question of the Week for September 21, 2022

SOUTH DUNDAS – This week, The Leader continues our weekly Question of the Week series in an effort to help inform readers about the candidates seeking election to South Dundas municipal council.

This week’s question – Building South Dundas – Municipal infrastructure (roads, bridges, water, sewer, landfill, buildings, malls, parks and recreational facilities) are the bones of South Dundas. While South Dundas is in a good financial position, it does have a large infrastructure deficit, meaning that the municipality’s current infrastructure needs far outweigh the available funds. What are your infrastructure priorities and how will you address them while keeping taxes affordable?

All local election candidates were given the questions with a deadline and were limited to approximately 175 words for their response. Only responses received by the deadline given to candidates are published. The Leader reserves the right to edit responses for journalistic-style and word count. Questions were determined by the editorial staff of the newspaper. This seven week series will continue up to the October 24 election. Responses are grouped by the elected office the candidates seek, and listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Mayoral candidates

Jason Broad

The municipality has an asset management plan that was updated in July of 2022. We have an annual funding deficit for our road network, our bridges and culverts system, our storm sewer network, our water and wastewater networks. As mayor, I will lead a community engagement effort to create a greater understanding of this plan and seek resident approval of the recommendations.

The current conditions of our infrastructure assets receive a fair to good grade. However, the plan points out that our financial capacity to maintain or improve our bridges, roads, and sewers is a weakness that needs to be confronted. Simply put, the current needs far outweigh the available funds.

Project prioritization is needed to gradually eliminate the infrastructure backlog, ensuring that residents across the municipality benefit from the investments we make. We will engage to find non-traditional or other government funding sources to close the deficit.

This budgeting prioritization, along with community engagement and the use of reliable data and financial models, will continue to guide the infrastructure demands of a growing community.

Bill Ewing

If elected, I will have the administration bring forward a condensed version of the 100 page asset management plan (AMP) prepared by Municipality of South Dundas July 2022, to get the New Council up to speed. With that in mind, we can then have some dollar figures to bring forward for discussion at the 2023 budget. What are considered infrastructure priorities will also be reviewed by the new council. The new council will need to make informed decisions on where we spend our money. You can be sure there will be many tough discussions. I would also suggest applying to the provincial and federal counterparts to see what additional funding is available to assist in bringing infrastructure back into shape.

The Province of Ontario implemented a regulation effective Jan 2018 requiring municipalities to have an asset management plan in place by July 2022.

I wish I had a MAGIC WAND to resolve all these issues, but not having one, means putting our energy into problem solving for today and the future..

Kirsten Gardner

Nobody likes surprises and at the municipal level they can be very costly.

Planning and using available resources is key. We now have guiding documents like the asset management plan which will help to assist in prioritizing long term for our infrastructure needs. We will need a variety of shovel ready projects. These are a must to better leverage both provincial and federal funding opportunities. We need to be ready to go when the opportunity presents itself, which hasn’t always been the case.

As mayor I would have planning sessions early on with both council and staff to look at our four-year term and what infrastructure issues need to be addressed, rather than go year by year at budget time.

It will then be the work of every member of council to stick with the plan and roll up our sleeves if emergencies present themselves. With a solid four-year plan we can move forward in a fiscally responsible way.

We must also investigate partnerships and different funding sources to offset other projects, reducing taxpayer burden.

Deputy Mayoral candidates

Donald Lewis

Over the last four years there has been a lot of infrastructure worked on and completed, such as water towers, relining water and sewer lines, capital projects and new buildings completed. We now have a new outdoor rink in Iroquois and campsite facility. My priorities would be on roads and building maintenance.

I would say roads are the biggest priority of all because they are travelled every day. My second would be buildings because maintenance is a key element to all buildings. Recreation is in pretty good shape overall. It is kept up to good standards. Water and sewer has its own financial funds from monthly billing.

I would say if we did 4-6 roads a year and put x number of dollars in reserves for certain ticket items such as landfill and bridges, that should keep taxes affordable where we live.

Marc St. Pierre
The upgrading, expansion, and prioritizing of the needs of the municipalities’ infrastructure assets will be critical over the next term of council.

Increasing the Municipalities revenue, to offset the asset deficit will be challenging. However it can be achieved in various ways.

Expansion of the tax base revenue through residential, commercial, and industrial growth is desperately needed.

A comprehensive review of the Official Plan and the Municipalities serviced and non-serviced land is required to ensure that growth can be actively achieved throughout the Municipality.

Council and staff need to be fiscally responsible: maintaining a controlled budget, allocating funds to asset needs versus asset wants of the Municipality and the control of future staff hiring.

Continuously pursuing Federal and Provincial funding opportunities to offset the cost of upgrading and the expansion of infrastructure assets is a must for infrastructure improvements and to improve recreational facilities and parks.

Embrace our community stakeholder ideas and initiatives, while working alongside them to find efficient ways to accomplish their visions for the benefit of the Municipality.

Tammy Thom

It’s common knowledge that our major infrastructure such as roads, bridges are aging. Our landfill will meet the end of its lifespan in the near future.

It is critical to prioritize the major concerns for all of our infrastructure budgeting needs, along with sourcing and utilizing grants from the provincial and federal governments.

Maintenance of our infrastructure is important. For example; crack sealing and pothole filling on our roads will delay further breakdown of the pavement.

As for our buildings, malls, parks and recreational facilities: reviewing the maintenance plan, long term and short term and coming up with creative solutions and potentially partnering with businesses and/or groups may be beneficial.

As for our malls, they have an interesting and historical significance in the seaway communities. They are also what our visitors and tourists see first. Some sprucing up would definitely improve our curb appeal. I would love the opportunity to work with the local community to achieve this!

Councillor Candidates

Michael Burton

Infrastructure is a major problem faced by every municipality. Major cities are falling apart, and small towns are no different. This becomes a problem when there is an unwillingness to acknowledge the issues.

Many councils have put these details on the back burner because they were afraid to deal with them. The issues aren’t addressed, until there is a crisis – something which has happened in our municipality.

At this stage of our development we have to acknowledge, address and deal with the problems one by one, starting with the most important ones. My goal will be to help our community realize that these problems will not go away.

One of the best ways to pay for this is to increase our tax base, not increase taxes.

This is what I’m concentrating on. My efforts will be to attract more taxpayers and therefore have more dollars to add to our municipal funds. Without a good, strong and safe community we will not be able to attract more taxpayers.

Having more residents will not deteriorate our infrastructure any faster; it will add to the dollars needed to repair them.

Trevor Riopelle

In 2022, I’ve never seen as much municipal infrastructure construction happening. I mean everywhere I turn we’re repaving roads. Bridges and water lines are being repaired, beaches are being upgraded, and both water towers were upgraded and painted recently.

The one issue that I continuously hear about from the community is waste and landfills. The local dumps and waste management have been in question for a while, and seem to have fallen off the map.

People are saying dump rates are unaffordable. I truly believe this must be a priority for our next council.

Next on the list, upgrades of municipal buildings such as the Iroquois Civic Center, Williamsburg Fire Hall, and the Riverside community building to name a few.

The township has managers for roads and buildings who are responsible for reporting the needs of not only now, but the future. Good succession planning and wise spending I believe are the fundamentals of starting to chip away at our current infrastructure deficit. This is a serious problem, but I believe it’s a solvable one.

Tom Smyth

South Dundas’ biggest infrastructure problems are the watermains and sewer systems in Iroquois and Morrisburg, as well as the many bridges that we have on our rural roads, which are in very poor shape.

All these upgrades are going to cost a lot of money and it will be challenging to do everything that needs to be done. With the recent inflation, these infrastructure projects just became about 25 per cent costlier. On top of this, we are entering a time of rising interest rates, which makes financing any project even more expensive.

We are going to have to lobby the Provincial and Federal Governments hard to increase transfer payments to help fund these projects. We simply cannot fund these projects without their assistance.

Another possibility I would like to explore further, if elected, is to increase revenue from tourism as a source of funding for some of our needed infrastructure and recreation projects.

Cole Veinotte

Municipal infrastructure conversations tend to always lead back to a discussion on taxes. Ultimately, tax revenue is required to fund what is built/managed within South Dundas. We have to be cautious though not to overburden our present residents and businesses. We need to attract new residents and businesses so their tax contribution will help fund infrastructure improvements. This turns into a story much like the chicken or the egg…which comes first? You need quality amenities and infrastructure to attract new people to the area, but you need the funds to do that. This poses a challenge. We need to show that South Dundas is open to growth and investment and also explore provincial and federal tools aimed at helping municipalities succeed with their infrastructure. I believe that carefully allocating funds to high-impact, high-visibility projects and then marketing that to potential newcomers is the best way to start. As new people and businesses arrive and the tax base increases, we can expand our scope to other projects across South Dundas.

Danielle Ward

South Dundas’ infrastructure, like many municipalities, consists of aging components in desperate need of repair or replacement. Infrastructure is required to maintain the quality of life in South Dundas but is expensive to replace with lengthy construction timelines and costly surprises.

Based on the 2022 asset management plan, It’s anticipated that 3.2 per cent per year for the next 10 years is required to be applied to the tax base to clear the infrastructure deficit, while another 5.8 per cent and 3.6 per cent are required over the next 15 years on water and sewer rates respectively.

If elected I’d like to investigate shifting an equitable share of the infrastructure deficit to new development, similar to other municipalities in the area that are growing exponentially. The application of deficit sharing has helped other municipalities avoid further deficits while completing infrastructure replacement and renewal projects. It is my hope, if elected, that deficit sharing, and working closely with the provincial and federal government on infrastructure grants will minimize any future impact to the tax base and water and sewer users.

Lloyd Wells

Infrastructure is the backbone for all communities. I think the best ways to deal with our infrastructure needs are prioritizing and good planning. Having the right information, such as a good asset management plan, which is a good tool to have when making decisions and going out for funding for projects.

The municipality has access to Federal Gas Tax and Ontario Community Infrastructure funds every year, but they don’t even come close to covering what we need to do every year.
Moving forward, I would look into development fees and user fees for certain things which would offset some borrowing from Infrastructure Ontario and additional taxation for infrastructure projects.

I think this would be a good start to addressing our infrastructure needs and keeping our taxes affordable.

Jeff Welsh

I believe municipal infrastructure is the backbone of any community. In my opinion South Dundas infrastructure has progressed well over the past years, but I believe we do fall short in some areas compared to other municipalities. If elected I would work with all members of council to prioritize all areas of infrastructure. As a successful owner/operator of a scrap metal business for many years, I believe I can add much value in proposing a new recycling plan for our landfill. As for roads I would propose we consider tar and chipping more gravel roads to decrease the costs of maintaining them. I also propose installing parking arms at all boat launches ensuring South Dundas residents receive a reduced launching fee. I would also suggest installing cameras where applicable to keep vandalism at a minimum as well as purchasing municipal garbage trucks.

As stated South Dundas has a large infrastructure deficit. Therefore I believe if members of council work together we can absolutely make changes to existing infrastructure where needed, without burdening the taxpayers.

Next week’s question…

Growing South Dundas – candidates will be asked to share their ideas about strategies for population growth here in South Dundas which has an aging demographic.

See the September 21, 2022 issue of The Leader for the question and their answers.

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