Roads, recreational facilities key topics at Hamilton Township budget meeting
About 25 people, including seven staff members, attended an early overview of Hamilton Township's 2017 budget Wednesday night where discussions were dominated by roads and recreational facilities, say three of those who attended.
“A lot of people came because they wanted information into the budget,” township treasurer Paul Dowber said in an interview.
Dowber said he appreciated the public feedback to the working document, such as a suggestion that the process happen earlier next year.
While no specific roads are identified yet for the 2017 rehabilitation and resurfacing program, there is more money going into resurfacing and possibly more when tender results are received Dowber and CAO Arthur Anderson both said.
Former township councillor Donna Cole said in an interview immediately after the meeting that there wasn't sufficient information provided to the people who attended.
“Everyone expressed great concern that the document which was supplied to ratepayers (on the website only) as the working papers for the meeting was of little use because it only supplied 2016 budget numbers and 2017 proposed numbers. There were no 2015 actuals to compare...” she stated in a subsequent e-mail in which she said there was a need for a 20-year roads plan so that the township could utilize “cheap money we can borrow from Infrastructure Ontario for 2.9% over 30 years.”
Dowber said that the roads master plan done in 2014 is only one tool in determining which roads need yearly work.
“It's one piece,” Anderson agreed, noting that the impact of weather, yearly road tours and a decision about priorities and what can be afforded are all part of the process. It will not be until early 2017 when a roads list will come to council for their decisions, he said.
“We haven't explored multi-year Infrastructure Ontario funding yet,” Anderson also said, so it is not built into the budget.
There is, however, an additional $70,000 for roads work proposed for 2017 over 2016, Dowber said.
There were concerns raised about funding for the Harwood and Gores Landing halls, as well as the waterfronts, particularly by the Friends of the Harwood Waterfront all three attendees said.
Cole noted that the Parks and Recreation Facilities Review by the Rethink Group, which led to improvement at the Baltimore Recreation Centre, Bewdley Waterfront Park and the Behan Subdivision Playground, have not been followed through on.
That document is being looked at by the new recreation manager Trevor Clapperton, with the treasurer and CAO to implement more of it, Dowber and Anderson said, adding that other funding has already been sought for Castle Hill Park and received for work already completed on the Butterfields Park on June Avenue.
“Many, in the audience,were concerned over the money spent to subsidize Cold Springs Hall but pittance given to the Harwood Hall and the Gores Landing Hall,” Cole noted in her e-mail. “Also it was noted that the township has never provided a playground for the children of Harwood or Gores Landing.”
Because these facilities are privately owned, council provides grants based on committee requests from them, Anderson noted. Some projects were funded over two years, such as a roof replacement because is expensive, he explained.
Last year almost $30,000 was given out in council grants to the halls, waterfronts and the Bethlehem Walk, the draft working document of the budget shows.
It has been available on the township website since Monday afternoon for people to view, Dowber said.
A report about the input from the public meeting will go to council on Dec. 15 when a second special council session will be held starting 10 a.m., he said. Council was not in attendance at the Wednesday meeting although Councillor Scott Jibb was in the audience. This is the second year for such a public dialogue to take place with staff on the early version of the budget which, at this point, would see a tax rate increase of 2.085% year-over-year.
Council will deal with the budget again on Dec. 20 at 1 p.m. at which time it may be passed.