Paving, well projects discussed in 2021 Morris-Turnberry budget
BY DENNY SCOTT
Morris-Turnberry Council started setting the direction for the 2021 budget process on Jan. 13 with a special budget meeting held via Zoom.
Council gave staff direction on several “priority” issues, specifically those that required pre-budget tendering or issuing requests for proposals, or spending that would have a significant impact on the budget going forward.
The municipality is currently $180,655.03 short on Arthur Street payments due to the ongoing negotiations with North Huron for cross-border servicing.
Morris-Turnberry had installed water and sewer services on Arthur Street for development, but with the moratorium on new water and sewer services from North Huron until a new cross-border servicing deal is reached, Morris-Turnberry wasn’t able to charge for new connections.
Treasurer Sean Brophy said the municipality had two options: forcibly collect the funds from landowners, which he did not recommend, or write it off and attempt to collect it at a later date.
Councillor Jim Nelemans asked if the municipality would be able to recover the full amount if it was written off and Brophy said a report would be forthcoming regarding a capital buy-in fee for the system if council decided to write off the expense.
“We can discuss what should be charged to any particular property,” he said, adding that council could consider setting a flat rate for residential or commercial properties.
Council approved the recommendation of writing off the expenses and trying to recover the expenses when feasible.
Belgrave’s primary production well, the McCrea Street well, is in need of replacement, however the price for the project has nearly tripled since it was initially considered.
Director of Public Works Mike Alcock explained that the well needed to be replaced and, during the construction of the well, water will need to be trucked in to retain sufficient water pressure for residents.
Originally, the project was set to cost between $50,000 and $55,000, however the regulations for new wells have changed since those projections were made several years ago.
“It was not going to require extensive testing that is now required,” Alcock said, explaining that new rules were going to drive the price to $145,000. “No one knew those rules were coming and we have to play by the rules.”
The municipality has been saving for the project, however there is only $85,000 for the project in reserves, requiring $60,000 to come from the municipal levy to cover the costs.
Councillor Jamie McCallum asked why the funds were coming from the levy, which is raised through general taxation, and not the Belgrave water systems reserve.
Alcock said he didn’t want to tap into that fund due to future projects. The secondary well in Belgrave, for example, will need to be replaced in the coming years, and infrastructure throughout the village will need to be replaced.
Alcock said that, going forward, he thinks the municipality should put $60,000 per year into a reserve to prepare for those expenses.
While council didn’t speak to the long-term planning and reserve funding, it did approve sourcing $60,000 from the 2021 levy to cover the project and associated expenses.
Alcock said he wants the municipality to start building a reserve for emergency treatment of gravel roads going forward.
During the budget meeting on Jan. 13, Alcock explained there are two budget lines of gravel cost: one for general resurfacing and one for resurfacing due to winter damage.
The winter damage line, which costs $50,000, is a new inclusion for the 2021 budget to help prepare for larger expenses down the road, Alcock said.
The funding will accumulate when not used, allowing roads to be repaired when necessary. He also said that, if the funds aren’t used for a number of years in a row, the money could be used to cover other road costs like equipment or bridge infrastructure.
He said the funds are for a near-worst-case scenario, so by having some reserves in place, it helps deal with surprise expenses that pop up.
Council approved the inclusion of the winter damage gravel resurfacing and directed Alcock to go to tender for the regular gravel expenses for regular resurfacing, which costs $360,000. In 2020, $410,000 was budgeted for gravel replacement, meaning that, between the two, the estimated cost of gravel for the municipality hadn’t increased despite the new line item.
Morris-Turnberry Council approved tenders for asphalt for three separate projects in 2021: Clyde Line resurfacing, Glenannon Road repair and resurfacing and the repaving of the Morris Public Works Yard.
Alcock explained that the Glenannon Road project is important because it wasn’t completed properly when it was last done in 2017, resulting in damage to the road, specifically near the edges.
When the road was repaired in 2017, only two coats were applied, missing what he called the “all-important” third coat. As a result, the edges of the road are constantly suffering damage resulting in significant cold patching projects for the road.
The plan, Alcock said, was to apply two new top coats and a third coat next year to prevent future damage.
Clyde Line will have significant work done on it this year, Alcock said, as the south end is to be paved to prevent water pooling in wheel ruts and the centre of the road.
“We’re trying to find ways to correct the profile of Clyde Line to allow proper drainage,” he said. “As it is, vehicles can hydroplane on water that sits on it. My intention is to propose hot mix from Blyth Road through to Morris Road in the upcoming years.”
He said that a hot mix application should last 20 to 25 years.
Council approved pursuing the projects.
Alcock also proposed three surface treatments in the budget, including parts of Salem Road and a portion of Huron-Bruce Road.
BLIND LINE BRIDGE
Blind Line Bridge, a structure council decided to replace that services a handful of residents, is going forward to tender in February after council approved the project.
Alcock said if council was to go ahead, this was the time to make the decision and to use grant money that has been approved for the project.
Council approved proceeding with the bridge replacement with Deputy-Mayor Sharen Zinn voting against it.
Council turned down the request for a third summer student for 2021, saying that additional projects would have to be handled by the two summer students the municipality traditionally hires.
Brophy suggested hiring a summer student for administration purposes to help with the municipality’s asset management programs and insurance inventory. “The best practice would be to have an up-to-date asset registry,” he said.
The summer student would be employed for four months, full-time at $14.50 per hour.
Brophy said he wasn’t looking for official approval of the plan, but an unofficial blessing so staff could plan for the project.
Councillor Jim Nelemans said he was against it, adding that he felt the two summer students hired last year weren’t kept busy due to COVID-19. The two students, who work for the roads department, could be reassigned to cover this full-time responsibility if they had time, Nelemans said.
Zinn and McCallum agreed, though Councillor Kevin Freiburger said there may be too much work to be fit in around another full-time job.
“I’m not sure how those time frames compare,” he said, asking Brophy what the work entailed.
Brophy reiterated this would be full-time work for four months.
Heffer said there wasn’t an appetite for hiring a third summer student, so funds it shouldn’t be included in the draft budget.
As part-owner of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, Morris-Turnberry is responsible for a portion of the expenses at the centre, including the upcoming renovations that are set to take place. Council had decided to contribute $31,750 annually over four years, however with the COVID-19 pandemic the renovations have been put on hold for the time being.
Brophy asked council if the funds should be put into reserves, or if the municipality would like to push payments back and start them in 2021.
Council decided to put the funds in reserve to cover costs for the centre, whether that’s the renovation or other savings, after Freiburger and Heffer said the plan was a worthwhile one.
Morris-Turnberry Council decided to use COVID-19 funding to help the Bluevale Hall make up for lost revenue due to the pandemic.
Exactly how much will be given will depend on a review of the hall’s finances by Brophy, but he wanted council’s blessing before he started reviewing the hall’s books.
The municipality will also see a decrease in policing costs in 2021 due to adjustments from the previous year. Brophy suggested putting savings from the change into a reserve to cover future increases.
Brophy also requested that OPP credits, which are generated when people seek non-emergency services from the OPP like background checks, should be put into the reserve as well. He said that totals approximately $2,000 annually.
The building department will also require a new vehicle within the next two years, Brophy said, as its current vehicle, a 2009 model, was nearing the end of its life cycle.
The municipality’s next budget meeting will be set when more is known about the length of the COVID-19 lockdown, Chief Administrative Officer Trevor Hallam said. He explained that council had expressed interest in an in-person meeting with staff heads, but that would need to wait until it was allowed.
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