Bayham councillors, at a special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 5, approved in principle a 2022 capital works budget calling for $7.4-million in spending.
Grants are expected to cover $5-million of that cost and reserve funds $832,000. That would leave $1.56-million to be collected through next year’s property tax levy.
The budget couldn’t be finalized yet because grant applications were still out for some projects, Treasurer Lorne James told councillors.
Among the big-ticket projects scheduled for 2022 are refurbishing of part of Port Burwell’s stormwater drainage system for $2.5-million, all to be covered by a grant, and $2-million for an expansion and improvements to Straffordville Community Centre, with $1.5-million from a grant and $535,000 from reserve funds.
Mr. James described the proposed capital works budget as “the most aggressive in the history of this municipality,” and noted that the portion of costs covered by property taxes would rise to $1.57-million, a half million dollars more than in 2021.
Bayham, he noted, did not have “stable” capital funding from property tax in recent years. Instead, the amount spent on such projects varied from year to year.
This year’s levy for capital works would be the highest ever in Bayham’s history, he noted.
The current philosophy driving capital expenditures focused revenue from property tax on “core assets” such as roads and bridges, while leaving non-core assets such as community centres heavily reliant on receiving federal or provincial grants to cover most if not all their costs.
Mr. James said currently, Bayham had a backlog of $28.75-million in needed capital works.
“Unfortunately, that amount has increased significantly,” mainly due to $15-million needed for complete rehabilitation of Port Burwell’s storm sewer system.
COVID-19 had increased the costs for doing such projects, he said. “The longer we delay, the further the cost pressures on that.”
That should be eliminated at the end of a 10-year capital works plan, he added. Doing so would help Bayham attract more residential and business growth in future.
The budget presentation included a long list of written comments and suggestions from Bayham residents about what they wanted to see in capital works.
Some involved Elgin County roads not under Bayham’s jurisdiction.
Mayor Ed Ketchabaw said, “I think it’s fantastic that residents are taking their time to send us their comments. It gives us an idea of what they’re thinking.”
Reviewing the comments, Councillor Sue Chilcott suggested taking up ideas for Vienna of a splashpad and a small boat launch on Big Otter Creek.
The launch would be for canoes and inflatable tubes that were used to float users down the creek, she said. Many already launched from Vienna’s Memorial Park, but the process could be made easier.
Mayor Ketchabaw described the suggestions as “interesting,” and if the community wanted, he could see partnering with a local group to make them happen.
Mr. James suggested inserting them into Bayham’s 10-year capital plan as placeholders for now, with $100,000 for the splashpad in 2026 and $25,000 for the launch in 2027.
Given the current environment for the federal government and with an Ontario election coming next year, he expected new grant opportunities to be coming “fast and furious,” and the projects could be moved up if they fit a specific program.
Councillors agreed to that.
Cr. Froese said, “I think it’s a pretty good idea, and I’d like to see how it could develop into something pretty positive for the community.”
Deputy Mayor Rainey Weisler was more cautious. Belmont had a splashpad, and she understood the ongoing operating and maintenance expenses were “quite costly.”
She wanted that project to go ahead only if they received grant funding.
Paid parking nixed
Deputy Mayor Weisler noted another suggestion had been to again consider paid parking at Port Burwell’s East Beach.
She knew a report was prepared a few years ago and council decided not to proceed, but now that the East Beach was a “Blue Flag Beach” (meeting certain international standards for cleanliness and environmental responsibility), maintenance costs were increasing.
Public Works Manager Steve Adams said he’d consulted with Central Elgin, which had extensive municipal paid parking lots in Port Stanley.
The cost of operating and enforcing a paid parking system at East Beach would be more than would be brought in by revenue, given a limited number of parking spaces available, he said.
Deputy Mayor Weisler said resident Mike Emberson had expressed concern about the condition of sidewalks in the municipality.
In his comment, he stated, “I have a special needs grandson that has tripped many times on the high spots. He actually chipped both of his adult front teeth about a month ago on our sidewalk. Very frustrating knowing they have been bad for years.”
Deputy Mayor Weisler asked if problem areas had been identified.
Mr. Adams said Vienna “pretty much is number one.”
He hoped that $300,000 included in the proposed 2022 capital works budget for sidewalk repairs and replacement in the village would be okayed.
He’d also heard concerns about sidewalks in Port Burwell, but those were in the area where storm sewers were to be replaced in future, so work on those should wait for then.
Cr. Valerie Donnell said Mr. Emberson resided in Port Burwell, and the incidents had happened there.
“We have things to fix on the sidewalks,” but she thanked Mr. Adams for working in recent years to try to remedy the bad spots.
Mr. Roloson reminded councillors that each year, public works crews did identify any trip hazards on sidewalks and marked them with orange paint while Bayham worked to replace them over time.
Deputy Mayor Weisler said a resident had called for more garbage cans in public areas of the municipality.
She heard a lot of complaints about the East Beach this summer, even though extra receptacles had been put out there, and about the skatepark in Vienna.
Cans were placed by a pavilion in Vienna’s Memorial Park, but not at the skatepark at one end, she said. Volunteers had undertaken a “massive effort” to clean up the area, but trash still seemed to accumulate there, she said.
Mr. Adams said the addition of three larger receptacles at the East Beach seemed to have cleaned up the problem there.
As for Vienna, he could look at placing receptables at the skatepark, but Bayham didn’t have any to spare, he said. He agreed to get pricing for more.
Councillors, at Cr. Chilcott’s urging and based on a public comment, added a basketball net and half-court to plans for a new pavilion planned for Richmond.
An application for a grant to pay the cost of the pavilion in 2022 had been rejected, so the municipality will add in the basketball net and court in future requests for funding.
That was tentatively placed as a 2025 project, with a cost increase from $50,000 for the pavilion alone to $65,000 to include the court, as well.
Vienna park power
Councillors ordered an investigation into the electricity distribution system in Vienna’s Memorial Park, again based on a public comment.
Mr. Adams said when a music festival was held there recently, he took a good look at the hydro system, which was a 200-amp service with 14 power receptacles.
He believed additional receptacles could be added, since the system was well under its maximum capacity.
A cost would be associated for bringing in a contractor to do so, he said.
Mayor Ketchabaw said when food trucks were being operated at the park, they needed 30-amp electrical lines, and 15-amp was all that was available.
The music festival had enough power for its needs, he said, but he’d heard concerns about insufficient electricity of annual Christmas lights put in the park.
Cr. Chilcott said a 30-amp line was also needed for inflatable amusements.
Rob Perry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express