| Aug 28, 2008

Feature Article - August 28, 2008

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Feature Article - August 28, 2008 New infrastructure money from OntarioBy Jeff Green

First it was MOVE Ontario, then it was provincial gas tax, and now it is something called Creating Jobs, Building Ontario.

They all add up to the same thing, money from the Province of Ontario that is transferred to municipalities to be used for infrastructure investments.

The McGuinty Liberals announced a one-time investment of $1.15 billion to an appreciative audience of municipal officials at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting in Ottawa on August 25.

While large municipalities received the lion’s share of the money (Toronto - $238 million, Ottawa - $77 million) there was money allocated to all municipalities in the province, on a per capita basis.

Among local townships, Addington Highlands will receive $113,182, Central Frontenac $219,393, North Frontenac $89,667, South Frontenac $858,381, Tay Valley $383,132, and Lanark Highlands $352,259.

At the county or “upper tier” level, Frontenac County will receive almost $1.3 million, Lanark County $1,5 million and Lennox and Addington just over $2 million.

“It is a fantastic windfall for all the districts,” said South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison. “The government has been grabbing our money for years and it’s good to see them recognise we need some of it back for infrastructure. We won’t have to look too far to come up with projects for the money. We have to rebuild the Loughborough Bridge next year and that alone will cost over $1 million.”

Details about what the funds can be used for are still sketchy, but Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Jim Watson suggested that decisions about how the money should be used would be left up to the municipalities. “Municipal leaders now have the ability to choose their next infrastructure project, and to move that project forward,” Watson said.

The documentation that accompanied the funding announcement said the decision regarding how much of the funding should go to upper-tier municipalities and how much to the lower tier was based on the amount of capital expenditures made by the different municipalities between 2001 and 2005.

Frontenac County does not own or maintain any of what is normally considered municipal infrastructure, such as bridges, roads or water treatment plants, and Ministry of Finance officials could not explain why the $1.3 million was allocated to the county.

However, according to County Treasurer Marion Vanbruinessen, the renovation of the Fairmount Home, a project that cost close to $15 million, took place between 2001 and 2005. “The province considers the Fairmount rebuild as a capital infrastructure project even though we allocated it under the heading of long-term care,” Vanbruinessen told the News.

The last time the province gave out across the board infrastructure grant, county council decided to pass the money over to the townships.

At the time, North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire managed to convince his colleagues on council that the money should be dispersed on the basis of the amount of tax assessment in each township, rather than population.

North Frontenac traditionally loses out when permanent population is used as the basis for funding because of the high percentage of seasonal residents (80%) that make up its population.

The matter will likely be fodder for a debate at Frontenac County Council in the fall.

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