City council has unanimously rejected a motion to consider a biennial paving and water/sewer program to reduce capital costs and workload in the coming years.
On Nov. 2, during the city’s initial presentation of its draft budget, it had proposed an 11.92 per cent tax increase to cover operating costs. Due to the size of the increase, the city had offered some proposals to reduce that number – one of them being by alternating paving and water/sewer projects every other year.
This Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce had called on council to scrap the idea last week.
Chris Greencorn, the city’s public works and engineering director, explained the idea in more detail during Monday night’s line-by-line reading of Budget 2021. Greencorn stated that senior municipal leaders were looking for ways to address a projected spike in capital expenses within the next decade, with such projects as the aquatic centre – accounting for more than $15 million in 2022 and 2023 – and the submarine water supply line replacement – requiring $1 million each in 2021, 2022, and 2023. There’s also an anticipated need to invest in aging pumphouses and lift stations.
“We looked at basically four models,” said Greencorn. “A business-as-usual model, which we project out on our typical and historical targets for both paving and water and sewer. Then we looked at a decreased funding scenario, which was kind of more of the same but less – which would be just reducing the number of streets paved. That would therefore then reduce the capital expenditure.”
He estimated that the latter approach could lead to a reduction in capital expenditures by about 24 per cent overall.
He also stated that there was a third option identified where the city would do all needed paving in 2021 with no water and sewer work that same year. This would be followed in 2022 with all water and sewer work but no paving.
With this option, he said there could be about a 45 per cent reduction in capital expenditures overall.
The fourth option was to have a minimal program “within the Covid context” for 2021.
Coun. Niels Konge said he feared that delaying annual upgrade work could lead to ratepayers having to pay more in the long run, either due to increasing prices over the years or by causing contractors to leave the city with their equipment due to the inability to bid on work every year.
“So while we might have savings today, at some point, by only doing half the amount of work you’re going to get behind,” Konge said. “And then when you get behind then all of a sudden you’re going to be paying 2030 or 2033 dollars to catch up.”
Or we could just live within our means and not drop 50 million on a new aquatic centre we can not afford.