UHCP green-lit following second report

Justin
Justin Crann
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Added costs, responsibilities no deterrent for executive

Moose Jaw will soon join the other 15 Saskatchewan cities as a signatory of the Urban Highway Connector Program.

Duane Grado, manager of public works, speaks at the Moose Jaw executive committee meeting Monday evening. Grado delivered a report detailing the full costs and responsibilities the city would be taking on as a signatory of the UHCP.

The decision to sign on to the agreement was made at Monday’s regular executive committee meeting after a report dissecting the new costs and responsibilities the city would be taking on was delivered by its public works manager.

But the move toward the UHCP was not without its critics. Coun. Brian Swanson, who requested the report detailing the full costs of the program, said he was “hard pressed to see any advantage in us doing this.”

Under the agreement, the city will assume responsibility for a number of roads and bridges previously maintained by the Ministry of Highways.

In return, the province will provide approximately $130,000 in funding to maintain the roads. “I am always very leery of provinces that are bearing gifts,” said Swanson.

“The province gives you this money upfront … but with the information we have here, I can’t understand the advantage of signing this agreement.”

He added that he didn’t want to take on additional responsibilities on behalf of the taxpayer, and noted that the city struggles to maintain the roads it already has in its portfolio.

However, both the city’s public works manager and Coun. Patrick Boyle suggested the agreement could be the only soft landing should the province choose to download roadway maintenance onto municipalities in the future.

That is especially the case because some of the roadways are on land annexed by the city several years ago, suggested Grado, who also noted that the program offers funds for Main and Manitoba Streets.

“Main and Manitoba Streets, those could be ours tomorrow, in the next provincial budget,” said Boyle. “This could very well be the downloading program that has been started and we haven’t taken advantage of it.

“I think the short-term benefit here … outweighs the long-term (costs) we are taking on,” he added.

The majority of the committee leaned toward Boyle, with only Luhning and Swanson opposed to authorizing city administration to sign on.

Grado noted after the meeting that he was pleased council had decided to go forward with the program.

“We’re the last city to get in on it, and at times you go ahead with those programs anticipating the provincial government will have money in their budgets for it,” he said. “It can change at any given time, but if you don’t have a formal document you have nowhere to lean and whatever they say, you have to go with it.

“It’s a win-win situation,” added Grado. “The other way is, you have nowhere to go when the province gives you a piece of paper and you just have to swallow it.”

The decision will receive final approval as part of the committee’s minutes at the next city council meeting.

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

Organizations: Ministry of Highways

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