City committee spins wheels on roads budget – Ottawa

The City of Ottawa’s transportation committee was all fury and no fire Wednesday when councillors condemned a lack of dedicated funding for pothole repair and snow clearing, but unanimously passed the departmental draft budget anyway.

The transportation draft  budget includes $117 million to fix and maintain roads, and remove snow. Over the course of a three-and-a-half-hour debate, several councillor expressed worry that the money won’t be enough.

‘I am very concerned about this budget.’
– Coun. Diane Deans

“I am very concerned about this budget,” said Coun. Diane Deans, who has been critical of the budget, particularly when it comes to road repairs.

Deans pointed out to staff that while the 2018 draft budget proposes a $5.5-million increase to the road budget, that’s still $9 million short of what the city had to spend in 2017 to fill potholes and resurface roads.

Though she takes issue with the budget, Deans did not suggest any solutions to the committee meeting. She complained the budget process limits the committee to shuffling money around within the department, and offers no opportunity for new funding.

City crews filled more than 250,000 potholes in 2017. (CBC)

“It’s not evident how you would do that without robbing another budget that is also underfunded,” she said.

“I think any changes that you see coming, or proposals for changes, will come on Dec. 13 [when full council meets to discuss the city budget] … where we’re not handcuffed in the same way.”

Deans said any amendments will most likely come forward when council looks at the budget as a whole.

Residents demand road improvements 

Mayor Jim Watson said Tuesday he has heard “loud and clear” that residents want more money put into road repair, after a particularly difficult year that saw the city fill 256,000.

“I am not optimistic that it’s going to improve in the short term unless council reconsiders its priorities,” resident Ken Holmes told the committee Wednesday. 

Holmes pointed out that 75 per cent of the city’s transportation infrastructure is already in sub-par condition, according to the city’s own records. 

The city is facing a $70-million annual gap in the funding it takes to keep roads and other infrastructure in good condition, a shortfall that will take 10 years to close under the city’s current funding plan.

City treasurer Marian Similuk said that gap could close in half the time with an additional one per cent tax…

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