PRE-ELEC­TION SPEND­ING SPREE?

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local -

Was it just Mother Na­ture or pot­holes pol­i­tics?

City coun­cil voted to ap­prove nearly $20 mil­lion more than nor­mal on roads re­pairs in this elec­tion year. That spend­ing also added close to $7 to the av­er­age tax bill in 2018.

Coun­cil ap­proved an emer­gency cash in­fu­sion in March — above and be­yond the nor­mal cap­i­tal bud­get for roads — fol­low­ing a win­ter freeze-thaw cy­cle that yielded a bumper crop of pot­holes and driver com­plaints.

In fair­ness, the city also had to weigh the po­ten­tial cost of a record 500-plus le­gal claims due to pot­hole dam­age against the “shave-and-pave” spend­ing spree.

Ei­ther way, the city went into overdrive to shoe­horn in 12 unan­tic­i­pated road projects this year, with the left­overs planned for 2019.

The one you likely know best was a $1-mil­lion emer­gency repave of rut­ted Main Street West. Other ma­jor roads on track for an elec­tion-year paving in­clude two long seg­ments of Burling­ton Street and a swath of Up­per Gage be­tween Mo­hawk Road and the Linc. All told, those projects are worth $4 mil­lion.

Coun­cil­lors had a pot of $13.5 mil­lion to split be­tween var­i­ous ward pri­or­i­ties and more than $7 mil­lion in small neigh­bour­hood repaving projects are pro­jected to be done by the end of the year. (The re­main­der of the money will be spent next year.)

In March, some res­i­dents bris­tled at the no­tion of let­ting ward coun­cil­lors dic­tate ex­tra road spend­ing in an elec­tion year — es­pe­cially amid an on­go­ing de­bate over con­tro­ver­sial dis­cre­tionary spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture by politi­cians in the old city.

Oth­ers sug­gested the city should spend less each year on road ex­pan­sion if it wants to put more into keep­ing up rut­ted res­i­den­tial streets.

Re­gard­less, the city fig­ures it should be spend­ing $85 mil­lion more than it can af­ford each year to keep roads in a state of good re­pair. Over­all, the city es­ti­mates it falls be­hind on all in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing by about $195 mil­lion each year.

Plenty of num­bers to chew on for vot­ers this fall.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Repaving the de­graded road sur­face on Main Street West.

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