“Too little, too late.”
While addressing the city’s flagging infrastructure and the much-needed funding that was being discussed for it, such was the mantra of Moose Jaw City Councillor Brian Swanson at this week’s two nights of budget talks.
Focus of the talks, held at City Hall Tuesday and Wednesday night, shifted to infrastructure funding with a report from the city’s Financial Services Department about the potential to create an infrastructure reserve fund out of $393,000 from the accumulated surplus and an additional $300,000 a year in redirected SaskPower Corporation franchise fees from the city’s operating budget.
The fund would squirrel away finances to eventually be paired up with provincial and federal government funding for infrastructure programs that Financial Services Director Brian Acker, Mayor Deb Higgins and Coun. Patrick Boyle all said — at varying times — are coming down the pipe.
Others on the committee were not fond of the idea.
Coun. Dawn Luhning questioned the practicalities of saving up for infrastructure rehabilitation in the long term when work is required immediately. Swanson echoed her sentiments.
They present a valid point. It isn’t as if an occult hand had descended from on high to destroy the city’s infrastructure overnight. This is a problem that has been many years in the making — acknowledged by Higgins, herself, on the campaign trail — and it is reaching crisis pitch.
When the run-off finally arrives, the citizens of Moose Jaw will have to contend with the annual challenge of ravaged roads and bridges, overflowing storm sewers, and the many other issues that have become characteristic of a spring in the Friendly City.
But emphasizing the sins of councils past — as Swanson was wont to do on Tuesday night — is only slightly productive in a discussion about the city’s infrastructural future.
In Swanson’s own words, even the $2 million he moved to have added to the city’s capital budget for infrastructure — at the price of a 10 per cent tax increase to Moose Jaw’s population — would be a “drop in the bucket” in response to this city’s needs.
If $2 million is a drop in the bucket, the $693,000 council agreed to send to capital and earmark for infrastructure is the beads of condensation on the side of a cold glass on a hot summer day.
Coun. Heather Eby may have offered the most clear-headed comment during the discourse.
While $693,000 worth of immediate infrastructural work would make the councillors and probably even the everyday Moose Javian feel good, it seems painfully short-sighted.
Especially considering the new Crown corporation the Sask Party has established — SaskBuilds — that was mandated in this year’s speech from the throne to work with municipalities to improve infrastructure.
There’s virtue in not wanting to go begging to Uncles Harper and Wall for a bail-out every few years, but when they are freely offering birthday money, this city should be ready to take it.
Elsewise we’ll be left with those beads of condensation on the glass.