City council is looking at accelerating its road program and paving McConnell Ave on the Bench this year.
The possibility of putting more money into roads came up during last night’s budget meeting at city hall, but council was divided on the issue.
City finance director Ron Bowles explained that money could be borrowed from the city’s equipment reserve fund and paid back over the next two years to get the popular road reconstructed this summer.
Mayor Dave Pernarowski and councillor Brian Downie supported the idea, saying it’s nice to be able to put more money into roads and it would respond to an urgent need in town.
Downie said the condition of McConnell needs to be dealt with, saying that the city will have to do the road at some point and it might as well be sooner rather than later.
“To be able to respond to it this way is quite reasonable,” he said. “In my view this is good news…let’s get on with it.”
Councillor Carol Leclerc said she’s happy to see McConnell Ave. rebuilt this year.
But other councillors weren’t sure the money should be spent on the road.
Councillor Bruce Martindale said he’s opposed to passing on spending to a future council.
“It’s a concern for me,”he said. “One on having a sustainable road building program that is predictable in terms of employment, in terms of work, in terms of materials and economy every year to keep a healthy industry here instead of loading it into one year.”
Longtime councillor Lynne Christiansen pointed out that it will take a long time to get all the roads up to the standard they want in town, and thinks there should be a steady plan to complete road projects.
“We’re always going to want more roads,” she said. “But I was quite happy with the last budget meeting. It (McConnell Ave.) is going to be done next year, and the patch job would do us for this year.”
Councillor Bruce Bidgood said this proposal goes above and beyond what council should be doing, saying he doesn’t know how comfortable he is with borrowing money to fix roads.
Councillor Brad Pollard said he didn’t have strong feelings either way.
“I see this, and frankly, it makes us look good as a council, and it addresses direct concerns that have been raised,” he said. “Is it responsible? I don’t know, I don’t think it is.”
Pollard said he wasn’t sure if he’d spend the extra money council had on roads.
Pernarowski reminded council that roads and infrastructure have been a priority of council.
“We’ve struggled to meet that initiative,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to at least do one more road, and I don’t think that’s irresponsible. It’s one more road that’s needed, and needed to be done for a number of years.”
The $1.4 million McConnell project, along with this year’s $1.1 million Davis Ave. project, would bump up this year’s road spending to $2.5 million, essentially doubling the roads program this year.
Council will be discussing the matter more during at meeting at city hall today, starting at noon.