The councillor for my area of the city said this today:
This week the Public Works committee formally received a report on the state of the city’s infrastructure warning that the spending shortfall for roads, pipes, facilities and other structures exceeds $150 million a year.
That led to the following exchange between downtown councillor Bob Bratina and the general manager of public works, Gerry Davis, transcribed by CATCH.
Bratina: Gerry, how much does it cost to maintain a lane kilometre [of roadway]?
Davis: Summer and winter included, it’s approximately $10,000 per lane kilometre.
Bratina: How many lane kilometres have we added in the last ten years, roughly?
Davis: We’ve added, I would say, probably upwards 500-700 lane kilometres.
Bratina: A year, on average?
Davis: On average about 50 or 70 a year, Rick? [asking one of his staff] So 60.
Bratina: So if we can’t afford to maintain these lane kilometres of road, why do we add them? It begs the other question. It’s a bit rhetorical but we’re providing – do the development charges that we apply to development recover the costs?
Davis: Through the growth component, when a developer – they’ll pay for the hard services, the capital cost, primarily. There may be a local component – roads, water, sewers. And then that road is handed over to the municipality to maintain. And other services are then required by the municipality – and that’s public works, policing, fire. But what happens in areas – we have assessment growth generated by the property taxes. That doesn’t come specifically to the police or fire or public works for waste collection, road maintenance, but there is a growth in revenues. I’m not saying it covers everything but that is, the capital cost is, primarily paid by the developer.
Bratina: Okay, so the evidence is that this so-called growth isn’t working because we’re $145 million a year short. So who should pay for that? And what I’m suggesting is that we’re building cheap houses for people who work in other communities. We hear this constantly shoved down our throat about how many people leave the city every day to go to work somewhere else. Well that’s because somebody who’s got a job in Peel can’t afford, at his wages a house there, so they get a nice taxpayer-subsidized house in Hamilton.
A good example is Maple Leaf [Meats facility in Burlington], because the average, the 900 or so on the production line, mostly live in Hamilton, because they can’t afford on the wages they get to live there.
So we have to consider as a council, and get the accurate information. It’s fine to say well we’re going to get all these new taxes from all these new houses. There’s your proof that we’re not getting the money back. And if you look at a growing community – like let’s say Alberta – Edmonton and the oil boom – they’re desperately short of houses. And there’s new jobs, there’s new people moving in. They’ve got to build houses. We don’t. We don’t have all these new jobs being created. All we’re doing is subsidizing residences for people who work elsewhere.
Nicely said. And that's my councillor. I don't always agree with him. But I think he's pretty good at what he does, and I very often do agree with what he says - including this.