Storm warning – ‘a terrific financial crunch in the 2010 budget’

While city council dares flood-prone residents to “sue us,” officials up the road in London are stepping up a program that assists those affected by basement flooding in far more proactive fashion.
This past Monday, city staff presented an engineering report to council that addresses the impact of a June downpour that generated close to three dozen phone calls from across the city from residents who experienced an influx of water.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the document can best be summed up with this message to those affected – sorry about your luck.
Staff and our elected officials should take a page from the preventative strategy adopted by our northern neighbours whereby owners are urged to take advantage of city subsidies to reduce sewage backups and flooding.

A Basement Flooding Handbook will be made available to residents offering tips on how to wet-proof residences.
These include improved lot grading, redirecting downspouts and what to do in the event of basement flooding.
Meantime, the city has in place a subsidy program that offsets as much as half the cost of approved measures such as disconnecting weeping tiles from sewer systems and installing sump pumps and backwater prevention valves.
“A lot of people are agreeing that flooding events are increasing in frequency and severity,” notes handbook author Dan Sandink.
London is one of the first municipalities to offer subsidies for home flooding reduction, informs Don Chambers, a manager in London’s environment and engineering services department.
Work on housing lots is much more effective and less expensive for everyone than installing bigger city pipes or more wastewater storage tanks, he adds.
Compare that to the comments from Mayor Cliff Barwick during this week’s council meeting.
“It’s nice to have the program, but in order for us to introduce any new program, it’s going to be extremely difficult. We are going to be in a terrific financial crunch in the 2010 budget.”
And just how significant will legal fees be when staff and council face financial reality in the same calendar year as the municipal election?
Soggy basements could make for a flood of fuming voters when it comes time to cast a ballot next November.
Thanks to upper tier funding, the city is about to embark on a spending spree of unprecedented magnitude.
More than 20 projects were approved Monday as city council put to bed Part 2 of the 2009 capital budget.
In excess of $5 million is earmarked for those undertakings, which include an expansion to St. Thomas Municipal Airport, an upgrade to Memorial Arena and replacement of the wading pool at Waterworks Park.
The city’s financial obligation is just over $2.2 million.
In total, $17 million will be invested in St. Thomas over the coming months, including $3.6 million for much-needed improvements to Wellington Street.
“That’s got to be a record for St. Thomas,” observes Ald. Terry Shackelton, chairman of the city’s finance and administration committee.
“We’ve committed a lot of money and there’s going to be a lot of construction and a lot of repairs going on in the city of St. Thomas for the next year and a half.”
Spend the money wisely. The feds and the province are doling out dollars like there is no tomorrow but you can’t dodge the dilemma of debt reduction for long.
These could be the last major financial handouts we will enjoy for an extended period of time.
And then, the city is on its own.
After a stint that lasted just over two years, director of parks and recreation Kent McVittie is heading off to greener pastures in Cambridge, Ont.
His tenure in St. Thomas was far from stellar. Think back to the bylaw that restricted the taking of photographs in city parks, the departmental reorganization and shuffle of titles, the missing-in-action marketing strategy for the Timken Centre and the debacle surrounding the donor wall inside the facility.
McVittie departs for his new position in mid-August and between now and then you can bet serious consideration will be given to a major shake-up in parks and recreation.
“Council will be looking at restructuring of the recreation department,” Ald. David Warden told City Scope this week.”
“It is going to happen, we are going to make changes,” continues Warden, who is chairman of the community services committee.
“It is coming, we’ve already started the process.”
From arena maintenance to scheduling of ice time and events to the promotion and marketing of city facilities, this is one department that needs to have its house put in order.
“As long as there are schools that are not completely full, such as Scott Street or Port Stanley, I don’t see the need for portables. We should not be using our children as guinea pigs in order to get ministry funding.”
Ald. Bill Aarts during debate Monday as city council approved a request from the Thames Valley District School Board to install portables on the site of Mitchell Hepburn Public School. Aarts was the lone vote against the motion.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to:

One thought on “Storm warning – ‘a terrific financial crunch in the 2010 budget’

  1. Great site, I now have you bookmarked to come back again.

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