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Budget deliberations end in shouting match

In New Tecumseth
Feb 10th, 2010

Roads issue really does bring out the warriors in council members
BY Maija Hoggett Alliston Herald  February 09, 2010
NEW TECUMSETH – Talks got heated in New Tecumseth council chambers Monday night as a couple of councillors asked for changes to the way road projects are chosen in the town.
After council approved the 2010 tax levy increase at 4.56 per cent Monday, the road projects included or excluded, spurred an argument between Coun. Dennis Egan and Mayor Mike MacEachern.
For the owner of the average $269,744 home, the municipal portion of their tax bill will increase $71.29. Because of Municipal Property Assessment Corporation re-assessment of property values, that increase represents a 5.72 per cent change in the taxes from 2009 to 2010.
Water and wastewater rates are also on the rise.
Council has eliminated the base rate for water and wastewater. As of April 1, 2010 1,200 people in the town who were paying the base service charge will be billed for each cubic metre of water and wastewater used.
Eliminating the base service charge also means residents and businesses will be paying two cents more per cubic metre of water and wastewater used. That two cents is in addition to the annual increase of cost for the services.
The current residential water and wastewater rate is $1.38 per cubic metre. As of April 1, the rate will be $1.54 per cubic metre.
Egan and the mayor butted heads when Egan started to make a request to review how road projects are chosen in the town. That request was in response to a move made last week by council that saw planned upgrades to the 15th Sideroad removed from the 2010 road projects list.
In lieu of doing work on the $197,000 project on the rural sideroad, three road projects will be done – one in each urban centre of New Tecumseth.
In Tottenham, $66,000 of work on Walkem Drive will be done, as well as $75,000 of work on Lilly Street, from Centre to Smyth Street, in Beeton.
Downey Avenue in Alliston will also be upgraded from Victoria Street to Dungey.
Four rural residents spoke at the meeting with concern about rural roads get short shrifted, but council still voted for the change in the roadwork schedule.
In choosing projects, Egan said the difficulty is that there are more urban councillors than rural reps. Before Egan could continue, he was cut off by MacEachern, who told him, “the purpose of the meeting is not to play to the audience or the media.”
MacEachern said the council meeting is for business and that Egan was “taking the opportunity not to use the meeting for its purpose.”
“Your worship I’m tired of you constantly putting anything that I say down,” said Egan after being interrupted.
Egan noted that he wasn’t making an attack on council.
In finishing his request, Egan asked for council to sit down with town staff to create a formula to ensure that rural roads get properly represented in the project list each year.
“It would stop this particular issue of taking roads out of the roads that have already been identified to put forth pet projects,” said Egan.
It was MacEachern who got the last word in the debate.
He asked that council deal with the business of council at meetings.
“And the business of the council is to deal with what those things are that are on the agenda, it’s not to play to the public or the media,” said MacEachern.
“I get frustrated when that happens because certainly I think that everyone around this table focuses in on what they think is in the best interest of the municipality in general.”
According to Coun. Barbara Huson, the representative for the rural ward where the 15th Sideroad is located, removing the project was the most blatant act of disregard she’s seen at council.
“To remove funding from a higher priority road and assign it to a lower priority road, ignoring in the process the road needs study that council approved only four months ago at a cost of $27,000 to our taxpayers, is both disrespectful and in my opinion irresponsible,” said Huson.
Beeton Coun. Richard Norcross said Lilly Street isn’t a pet project.
“It’s a road in front of a school, an elementary school, that over the last nine months to 12 months has deteriorated quite quickly, it’s been beaten down, there’s a lot of kids in front of it, there’s a lot of traffic, there’s a sewage pumping station that was done,” said Norcross. “I am sorry, but I felt that was a priority and I felt that needed to be done and I’m going to stand by that decision cause it has to be fixed.”
Another concern in the budget for Alliston Coun. Jamie Smith is relying on $500,000 of one-time funding from the future sale of land.
Smith pointed out that if that sale isn’t made at the prices expected, the town will have to find that money somewhere.
Chief Administrative Officer Terri Caron said the management team that put together the budget understands the concerns about one time funding. She said the team’s thinking was that there is economic uncertainty, with some positive indicators.
Caron noted that the town’s revenue has been impacted in the same was as businesses and homeowners.

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