PRE-ELECTION SPENDING SPREE?
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.
Repaving the degraded road surface on Main Street West.