Roads spending proved contentious at a Dysart et al budget meeting Dec. 13 with disagreement on how much should be spent on them.

Council worked through a first draft of the budget, which features an estimated municipal tax rate increase of four per cent. They considered three options for the road budget this year, focusing on a mid-range staff proposal to spend $1.134 million.

Coun. John Smith pushed for more funding, citing a Decision Optimization Technology (DoT) software report presented to the infrastructure committee.

The report found if the municipality maintained a $1.25 million road budget, the number of roads rated as “poor” in the municipality would more than double from 18.5 per cent in 2019 to 46.6 per cent in 2021.

“Completely off the charts to think nearly half our roads will be categorized as in poor condition,” Smith said, before asking for a road spending figure which would keep poor-rated roads at current levels. He also suggested borrowing money could be necessary.

The municipality invested in DoT software this year, surveying all its roads to help guide decisions.

However, staff pushed back on the DoT report and said council needed to agree on parameters to make the software more accurate. Staff also seeks to complete a new asset management plan in 2020 to decide where to target before spending more roads money.

“We need to kind of backtrack and have council decide what they want the roads to look like, establish the rules of engagement,” municipal treasurer Barbara Swannell said.

The $1.134 million proposal includes carryover from 2019 and $541,049 in resurfacing on spots like Trappers Trail Road and Park Street. It also features $255,359 to start implementation on the asset management plan in 2020.

Other staff proposals included one for $945,230 removing additional slurry seal projects in 2020 and the $255,359 allotment. The most costly plan would be $1.74 million and add over $600,000 in extra road construction, including treatment on Bitter Lake Road ($328,500), Dignan Road ($226,150) and crack sealing in downtown Haliburton.

Repaving roads pricey

Municipal staff estimated turning previously pulverized roads back into hard-surface would cost $1.26 million.

The estimate was not in the draft budget and includes 28 roads, stretching across 36.9 kilometres.

The roads were turned from hard-top to gravel by municipal staff to reduce maintenance and labour resources. Council did not make any decisions to move ahead with reverting the roads. But staff confirmed this year’s budget does not include any further roads going from hard surface to gravel.

“That’s a first step,” Smith said.

Stuck on potholes

Coun. Walt McKechnie asked about the possibilities of better solutions to fix potholes.

“We’re not the only one having this problem and to me, it’s a very big problem,” McKechnie said.

Director of public works Rob Camelon said there are no perfect patch systems and it comes down to the way roads are built.

“You have a poor base, you’re going to have potholes no matter what you put down,” he said.

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Joseph Quigley is a staff writer with The Highlander. Joseph is always digging hard for news stories and covers all the latest happenings in the County of Haliburton. He believes in the importance of local news, finding more to every story and listening to marginalized voices. When he’s not working on news, Joseph finds himself getting all-too engaged in social media and cheering on his favourite Toronto Maple Leafs.