The County of Haliburton is planning to budget a $3 million loan to give its roads a “shot in the arm” in 2020.
The Haliburton County Roads Committee voted Aug. 14 to recommend staff include a one-time, $3 million budget increase to supplement the 2020 roads capital budget.
Director of public works Craig Douglas argued for the budget increase, citing the troubles the municipality experienced with roads “blowing up” in the spring.
“Hard for me to sleep at night in that spring,” Douglas said. “Status quo isn’t necessarily going to change anything next spring … I think the roads budget needs a one-time shot-in-the-arm.”
Douglas outlined three options including: status quo; a $6 million loan and a $3 million loan. He discussed what impact each would have on roads quality in the municipality, in terms of network performance rating.
Coun. Brent Devolin said the municipality would have to make some fundamental decisions as it works on its long-term asset management.
“This is the first of a whole bunch,” Devolin said. “This is a great step forward. You’re either doing this in a big way or you stick with the status quo. I’m not a supporter of in-between.”
The motion does not represent a firm commitment, with council still able to change direction in the budgeting process. Council also directed staff to bring forward a report breaking down different approaches to the multi-million-dollar loan and how it could be repaid.
A staff report presented at a subsequent finance and correspondence committee meeting found that the municipality has an annual debt repayment limit of $3,391,370. Currently, it is only spending $157,712 across two loans. As of Oct. 31 2018, the county has $1,568,817 in outstanding debt.
“Historically, the county has minimized debt,” the report from treasurer Elaine Taylor said. “Many of our roads are in poor or fair condition and require replacement. Utilizing debt to decrease the infrastructure gap could assist the County in reaching sustainability for road and bridge infrastructure”
Douglas said the improvements may be hard to conceptualize across a massive road system, but more funding should make for a notable impact on bad roads.
“We’ll have a lot less stuff that’s blowing up,” he said.