MANITOWANING—For the first time in five years, residents of Assiginack are looking at an increase in taxes, by two percent.
Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, March 24 where treasurer Deb MacDonald explained that changes to the education rate for Assiginack will mean a 0.4 percent decrease to the tax rate, but should council decide to move forward with a $61,000 LED street lighting project, it would mean a two percent increase. However, the installation of these LED lights would mean an eventual savings to taxpayers in terms of energy costs.
According to Realterm Energy, the company that would be contracted to do the 123 replacements, the municipality would realize a savings of 67 percent in energy consumption and energy costs and 80 percent in maintenance costs.
Line items for projects in the budget include: municipal office renovations, $40,000; thermal imaging camera, $6,800; landfill expansion, $65,000; coverall, $15,000; Red Lodge Road, $40,000; sidewalks and ditches in Manitowaning, $15,000; Michael’s Bay Road, $27,000; additional money (statue preparation), $5,000; and street lighting, $61,000.
“It would make more sense to hit them all at once, then see a savings later,” said Reeve Paul Moffat, referring to the two percent increase.
“I don’t like to see increases,” said Councillor Hugh Moggy.
“I think we have to,” Councillor Leslie Fields responded. “We have a lot of infrastructure.”
“Say that to the taxpayers,” Councillor Moggy said, noting he was “horrified” at the amount of debt held by the municipality.
“We have to start paying back into reserves,” Councillor Fields added.
Reeve Moffat said the budget made “good business sense” and thought it would appear that way to the ratepayers, too. “They’ll think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Councillor Fields brought forward the poor state of Spragge Street, the street on which the municipal office sits, with Councillor Brenda Reid adding that Mitchell’s Hill is also in rough shape.
“We can’t let them deteriorate further,” Councillor Fields said. “We can’t keep filling potholes—it’s not working. It’s a disgrace, it’s dangerous, and again, I don’t want to keep borrowing from reserves.”
Councillor Reid called the amount being spent on coal patches “crazy.”
Councillor Fields suggested public works superintendent Ron Cooper give council an estimate on fixing Spragge Street before finalizing the budget. “I don’t think it can be left for a year.”
“Are you hung up on doing Red Lodge Road despite NEMI?” CAO Alton Hobbs asked, referencing the Red Lodge Road line item in the budget. Red Lodge Road is shared between Assiginack and the Northeast Town with residents on the Northeast Town side making repeated requests for roadwork to be done. Assiginack has assured these residents that it would pay its share, and has budgeted accordingly, as long as the Northeast Town is on board for the other half. The Northeast Town has told both Assiginack council and those living on Red Lodge Road on numerous occasions that this is not a priority for public works.
“There are more vehicles using this stretch of road (Spragge Street) than Red Lodge Road,” Councillor Fields responded.
“I just can’t see doing it if NEMI is not on board,” said Councillor Moggy.
“I just can’t see us getting money from someone who didn’t agree to pay for it,” added Councillor Reid.
Mr. Hobbs said there will likely soon be heavy truck traffic on Red Lodge Road with construction of the McLay Subdivision to start and that it would not make sense to redo the road at this time.
“We can just stroke out Red Lodge Road and put in Spragge Street,” the reeve said.
“I would be willing to meet with NEMI,” suggested Councillor Moggy.
The reeve said he mentions Red Lodge Road every chance he gets to Northeast Town councillors and the mayor, adding that their view will likely change with the creation of the subdivision, but maybe not this year.