City council shaved little off its $106.7 million-capital budget during the first day of debate on Tuesday.
So far council approved most of the proposed capital projects for 2017, with a few more left to debate on Wednesday starting at 9 a.m.
The closest councillors came to cutting back on spending was when they discussed reducing $7,291,000 in roadway reconstruction by $1 million. The motion failed 5-3.
Coun. Paul Harris said he was not opposed to addressing the backlog of road work, but in difficult economic times the increase to the reconstruction budget should be reduced.
“This year it’s at $7 million. Last year it was at $5 million. It’s still an increase to our budget,” Harris said on Tuesday.
Administration told council that 25 per cent of the city’s road reconstruction backlog remained and the backlog would increase if its budget was reduced.
Coun. Ken Johnston said he couldn’t support a smaller reconstruction budget.
“We need to make a continued investment in this kind of infrastructure. It’s not growth. It’s maintenance,” Johnston said.
“It’s not a nice to have. It’s a need to have.”
Mayor Tara Veer said citizens have continually identified roads and transportation as priorities in satisfaction surveys and over the years satisfaction has grown as the city focused on road work.
“Council has recognized that we had a substantial infrastructure deficit in roadways. That was in terms of existing pavement quality throughout the community, but also in terms of a substantial backlog a couple of years ago in potholes. There were some 14,500 potholes in the city,” Veer said.
“For the next year or two, we still have a bit of an infrastructure deficit that we need to close. Once we resolve all the shortfalls of the community, we likely could shift into more of a maintenance budget as opposed to addressing a backlog.”
She said this was her 13th capital budget and has recognized how carefully both council and administration deliberated capital costs in light of the current provincial economic climate.
Last year the 2017 capital budget was anticipated to be $133 million and administration reduced it by $26 million even before it came before council, she said.
“There’s an awareness of the economy that’s highly acute,” Veer said.
Council did cut capital costs by $219,000 at Collicutt Centre by delaying construction of a second water slide until 2018.