City set to tackle cap­i­tal bud­get

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COLGAN

The City of Wood­stock of­fi­cially be­gins its bud­get pro­ceed­ings Thurs­day, start­ing with an over­view of the cap­i­tal bud­get for the com­ing year.

The ini­tial pre­sen­ta­tion of the cap­i­tal bud­get – a pro­posed $29.5 mil­lion for 2019 – will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for coun­cil­lors to ask ques­tions and make sug­ges­tions. “We go pro­gram by pro­gram to see what the ‘ask’ is and we look at any spe­cial one-time items that are large ticket,” Mayor Trevor Birtch said. “There’ll be give and take through­out the process.” Wood­stock’s rev­enue fund bud­get – es­sen­tially the city’s op­er­a­tional costs – will be pre­sented to coun­cil in mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Wood­stock bud­gets are pre­sented as part of a five-year plan, with only the im­me­di­ate year be­ing ap­proved by coun­cil while the re­main­ing four years are a fore­cast of what to ex­pect.

“It al­lows us to smooth out and plan projects bet­ter (than) if we were do­ing it year by year,” Wood­stock CAO David Creery said.

The pro­posed cap­i­tal bud­get will see a jump of nearly $13 mil­lion from $16.5 mil­lion last year af­ter car­ry­ing an av­er­age of $22 mil­lion from 2015 to 2017. Creery said the bulk of this in­crease comes from the roughly $10 mil­lion needed for phase 2 of the Pat­ullo Road project to ser­vice the land for in­dus­trial use.

“The city’s been very suc­cess­ful in sell­ing its va­cant land for in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment. You’ll see lots of de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity in all of our in­dus­trial parks. More than 40 acres of land was sold in 2018, and we’re get­ting low on in­ven­tory,” he said. “That’s why it’s im­por­tant to move on to the ser­vic­ing of the next land. It’s a big project be­ing put for­ward. … The city needs more va­cant in­dus­trial land to mar­ket to new in­dus­tries and busi­nesses that will cre­ate new jobs. This is im­por­tant.” Birtch said a main em­pha­sis of coun­cil will be mak­ing Wood­stock as at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble for busi­nesses, help­ing to grow em­ploy­ment in the Friendly City. “Pre­vi­ous coun­cils have been aware of this need and this new coun­cil as well. I spoke about it in the in­au­gu­ral ad­dress that ser­vic­ing em­ploy­ment land and con­tin­u­ing work to at­tract new em­ploy­ment is some­thing we have to work on right away,” he said.

A pro­posed in­crease in road in­fra­struc­ture will see a jump to $4.5 mil­lion while a new city main­te­nance build­ing near Cowan Fields is pegged at $900,000 and the city’s en­gi­neer­ing of­fice ex­pan­sion is es­ti­mated at $850,000.

“Peo­ple see we’ve been work­ing hard to make im­prove­ments to all the roads. It’s doesn’t hap­pen with a flash,” Birtch said. “It means de­tours and in­con­ve­niences but, once it’s done, peo­ple see it’s an in­vest­ment for the en­tire com­mu­nity.”

Other key projects pro­posed in the cap­i­tal bud­get are the sec­ond phase of the li­brary’s ma­sonry restora­tion at $550,000 – the front en­trance was done about five years ago – and the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the 71-year-old Lions Pool me­chan­i­cal and basin at $900,000.

It al­lows us to smooth out and plan projects bet­ter (than) if we were do­ing it year by year.”

Wood­stock CAO David Creery

An ad­di­tional re­cy­cling truck is also in the pro­posed plan at a price tag of $275,000, with Birtch say­ing coun­cil has heard from cit­i­zens about in­creased re­cy­cling. The ex­tra truck would help the city to­wards that goal, he said.

The city’s new agree­ment with the Up­per Thames River Con­ser­va­tion Area has also seen them pro­pose $440,000 for a dam cross­ing. “Hav­ing the new agree­ment in place means we’ll be busy work­ing on bring­ing the fa­cil­i­ties up to city stan­dards and de­vel­op­ing a new trail,” Birtch said. “I think this is some­thing the com­mu­nity’s been re­ally look­ing for­ward to.” To fi­nance the pro­posed bud­get, $8.4 mil­lion would come from re­serves and re­serve funds, with $4.625 mil­lion com­ing from Ox­ford County’s sewer wa­ter rates and $3.8 mil­lion from rev­enue. A fur­ther $2.65 mil­lion is from debt and $1.98 mil­lion from grants or fund­ing pro­grams, leav­ing $8 mil­lion in fund­ing to be de­ter­mined.

“We pro­pose the projects and the fi­nanc­ing and it’s put into coun­cil’s hands,” Creery said. “They’ll re­view it Thurs­day night page by page in de­tail with staff on hand to an­swer any ques­tions.”

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