• Eric Johnston

MORE TAXES?

Mis à jour : juin 28

Can we afford to pave our roads?


For an extended period, I have been uncomfortable with the strategy that the Wentworth-Nord Council has been pursuing regarding Municipal long-term investments in the road network.

At the May meeting, I presented a resolution with the objective of correcting what I see is an inequitable treatment of all taxpayers in Wentworth-Nord. The Councillors are equally divided on the issue so the resolution was defeated by a vote of 3 to 3 as a tie is always decided in the favor of the negative. Click here for a copy of the resolution.


The following provides a summary of my concerns and recommendation.


The approval of the $2.5 million dollar bylaw 2019-563 passed in June 2019 initiated the first steps in a long-term program of repairing roads in Wentworth-Nord. Like many other communities, we desperately need to take consistent care of our road infrastructure. Click here for a copy of the loan bylaw and the cost estimates for the roadwork projects.


Unfortunately, a strategic plan has not yet been completed so the full costs including ongoing maintenance are unknown. Lots of the elements have been completed but a final plan with the full financial costs and ROI is still required. Wentworth-Nord has a small population with a large Municipal road network of almost 100 kms (49 km paved + 48 km gravel) as well as another 53 kms of private roads, we need to be very careful about managing the long-term costs and their impact on our taxpayer.


The Quebec Government also strongly recommends good overall planning so that taxpayers get the best return on the investments made in overall road network; they even warn about first focusing on the worst sections of road which is the current Wentworth-Nord approach. See PIIRL Guide 2016.


The Mayor and several members of Council have refused to reconsider some of the political promises made; so now everyone in the Municipality will be subjected to an increased tax load for a road improvement paving program that benefits only a few. For example, the project on Rue du Domaine is estimated at $1,000,000 for 2 kms of paved road serving just over 50 homes. The extra costs related to paving are $500,000 ($349,965 for asphalt, $78,376 for geotextile and $79,410 for extra gravel) of the total . See cost estimates here.


For all the projects started last year, no paving has yet been done. This provided a window of opportunity to control unnecessary costs so I presented the resolution concerning roadworks at the public Council meeting held on May 15, 2020. As an additional note, it was only at an extraordinary meeting of Council held last week on May 27, 2020 that approval was requested, and authorization given, to start the public bid process on the paving contracts. Final approval of the paving contracts still needs to be brought before Council for authorization to proceed.


There are two important issues:

1) we cannot afford to pave all our roads;

2) when projects are paid from the general property tax revenues, it should be equitable for the general population.


Costs to pave roads are over 4 times that of gravel resurfacing and the ongoing maintenance costs for paved roads are much higher on an annual basis. To put this in absolute terms, if we paved all our Municipal roads, the extra costs could be in the range of $25,000,000 plus higher annual maintenance costs. This amount is based on the estimated costs for paved projects in the loan bylaw.


The Mayor’s position is that the road network belongs to the Municipality, is of benefit to all taxpayers, and as such, all costs should be paid from the general tax base. However due to the huge difference in costs for paved vs gravel, it is indefensible to perpetually benefit those who already have paved roads versus those residing on gravel roads.


The Mayor also contends that the Public Consultation process on roadworks showed an across the board strong support for the plan presented. Since the Municipality did not complete the established procedures set out for public consultations, there was no written report presented for acceptance by Council and therefore no possibility of presenting some of the alternate views that had been presented to the Mayor. Click here for the Municipal procedure for public consultations. Click here for a copy of the information presented by the Mayor at the public consultations held in spring 2019.


My recommendation is very clear, the Municipal standard for roads paid from general tax funds should be gravel. There should also be clearly set out evaluation criteria and a decision process for determining which roads or sections of roads should be paved. A cost-effective approach would pave the high use main roads while secondary roads would be gravel. If the Municipality follows established best practices, there are many decision models available to help select roads for paving. Both paved and gravel roads require good annual preventive maintenance to maximize their life.


In all other cases, if residents want to have their own road paved, the Municipality can assist by managing the paving project and then recover the costs through a long-term sector tax added to the annual tax bill of the residents benefiting from the road.


Please feel free to share your comments with myself, the Mayor or your Councillor, all contact info is available at:

https://wentworth-nord.ca/mairie/conseil-municipal/




© 2019-2020 copyright by Eric Johnston