Erin Crescent subdivision off table

Duane Hicks

Exactly how much will it cost to put a road in, as well as water and sewer infrastructure in the ground, at the proposed Erin Crescent subdivision?
The town won’t be finding out this year.
Town council voted to take the phase one work out of its 2018 capital budget during a meeting Monday afternoon.
The items had been included so that the work could be tendered and council could get a better idea as to the true cost of the infrastructure work before making any concrete decision to go ahead with phase one of the proposed 27-lot subdivision.
The capital budget had included road and storm sewer work ($432,192), sanitary sewer work ($493,923), and water system work ($383,771)–all to be drawn from reserves and/or funded by water and sewer rates.
Additionally, treasurer Laurie Lindberg noted the town is expecting a 2017 year-end surplus of $700,000 due to several reasons, including decreased legal fees and a mild winter resulting in snow removal budget savings.
This surplus could be put into reserves and be used toward Erin Crescent if town council wanted to proceed.
But after a 3-3 vote, the line items were deleted.
Mayor Roy Avis said he would rather see the town spend its surplus money to fix streets in need of repair than at Erin Crescent.
“If we start down the path with Erin Crescent, yes, it might some day give us revenue, but I am from a more cautious camp,” he remarked.
“I would rather see us spend that money on the roads that we’re driving on now than invest it in Erin Crescent.”
Coun. Doug Kitowski agreed, noting residents in the north end having been asking to have their streets repaved for many years, and council should fix streets like Elizabeth Street and York Avenue before digging holes and putting pipes in the ground at Erin Crescent.
But Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob said the town must follow its asset management plan.
In simplest terms, the town must priorize higher traffic volume roads and those with greater risk of water and sewer infrastructure failure, such as Second Street East, when it decided which ones should be fixed.
Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown later stressed council and the public need to be educated that the town is in the process of moving to an asset management system which, by 2022, it must follow by provincial law.
This means the council of the day will have to look ahead on a five-year basis and spend its money according to a strict schedule of when its assets, such as roads and water and sewer infrastructure, need to be replaced, he noted, adding it is a form of “stewardship.”
“The way we do business is going to change a little bit,” Brown noted.
Coun. Ken Perry said he agreed with Mayor Avis and Coun. Kitowski, and defended that none of them disagree that the high-priority roads need to be fixed.
But he echoed that instead of spending money at Erin Crescent, that money could be used to fix up some of the secondary roads in town.
Coun. Wendy Brunetta, who felt the town certainly has a responsibility to maintain roads for its residents, felt the Erin Crescent project still should be tendered, stressing council still has the opportunity to say “yay” or “nay” after it gets concrete figures for the phase one work.
Couns. June Caul and Paul Ryan agreed.
The Erin Crescent subdivision has sparked debate several times in the past year, and the discussion once again resulted in administration reminding council why the subdivision is being considered: the need to increase the town’s tax base.
Lindberg said the town’s industrial tax base one day could be “zero,” and the only way to build assessment is to increase the number of residential properties in town.
Tying it back to the asset management plan, Brown said 50 percent of the town’s revenue comes from tax revenue and the more people paying taxes, the more money the town will have to fix those roads in the future.
“You’re in a vicious circle, and we’re trying to maximize the revenue for the town and take care of this stewardship,” he remarked.
“You’re behind the eight-ball. We know that,” Brown added.
He noted the last asset management plan in 2011 showed the town was $1.2 million short in revenue every year for 10 years to fund what eventually will need to be replaced.