Minden crippled by road and bridge costs
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | October 26, 2017|
Excuse Minden Hills’ road superintendent for feeling a bit like Oliver Twist these days.
Travis Wilson wants more money to service the municipality’s roads system. But, unlike in the iconic book and films, it isn’t that councillors don’t want to give him more, they just don’t have any more to give.
Wilson spoke with The Highlander recently about some of the challenges his department and the township are facing.
“It is a difficult time, not just for our … township, but for all of Ontario,” Wilson said. “This council has done a lot for my department since I started here; the roads budget has significantly increased since 2015 and we are gaining some ground; however, the costs are continually increasing and there is a need to continue this practice or find other sources of funding in order to catch up, maintain and rehabilitate what we own.”
Wilson said nine roads in particular are the source of many complaints. They include Bobcaygeon, Blairhampton, Scotch Line, Caribou, Peterson, Tennyson, Plantation, Green Gables and County roads. They make up 33.4 km, of the road system. Wilson said the cost to rehabilitate these roads is a minimum of $4.1 million. Ideally, they would then be resurfaced once every seven years for another $1 million. So, that’s $5.1 million before even looking at 94.6 km of additional roads that the township is responsible for.
Wilson goes on to say that before the township can even think about rehabilitating those roads, there are other roads that require preventative maintenance first.
To put it into context, Wilson had $260,000 in his 2017 budget to resurface low class bituminous roads (LCBs).
The roads crew really needs to do about 18 kms a year. To do that, they would have needed $490,000 in that budget. They only had 53 per cent of what they should have been spending.
Wilson doesn’t blame council.
“The difficulty municipalities are facing throughout Ontario is nothing new; years of provincial funding has come to a halt with the last big show of funds being in 2008, requests for increased levels of service and the onus to make ends meet is the responsibility of the municipalities of Ontario,” he said.
The other challenge is township roads aren’t like Ministry of Transporation (MTO) and county roads. Township roads were simply historical paths widened over time with minimal granular materials and hard-topped or left loose-topped. They weren’t properly designed or engineered.
Take Bobcaygeon Road, for example. The old road really needs to be chewed up with four inches of granular A put down, followed by double surface treatment, Wilson said.That’s $1.3 million without event thinking about culverts, ditches or fixing areas susceptible to frost or repairs. Four years down the track, it would need a slurry seal. That’s another $200,000. At year seven it would need a single surface treatment. That’s another $290,000. At year 14, there could be another treatment. Wilson said the demands never end.
The township has another 117 km of loose-top roads. This year they did about 15 per cent of the required maintenance.
Everywhere Wilson looks, there are budget shortfalls and work that has to be done, such as rehabilitating bridges.
Wilson’s strategy is pretty simple despite the odds. “If we can make a few investments at strategic times using preventative maintenance it will save us in the future.”
Reeve Brent Devolin said it’s become a political fight to address the infrastructure gap in Ontario, which is now about $5 billion. “We need help from the provincial government. It isn’t chicken feed.” He said he would use Wilson’s reports as “fodder” when he attends conferences in future as he fears the alternative to provincial money is ratepayers seeing increased taxes.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.