The first two delegations at Council Tuesday evening, despite having different stated purposes, also had a common thread.
The first delegation that night consisted of members of the TAAA (Thorold Amateur Athletic Association). They were there to point out that that the recent arena study stated that Thorold needs two ice surfaces. They pointed out that the Old Arena will have to be demolished before long and urged Council to deal with the report, which had been shelved pending the 2015 budget process. They urged Council to start putting money aside so they’ll be able to act when the time comes.
Port Robinson Proud then started off by introducing themselves as a group of community activists in the historic village. They ended by showing a promotional video of Port Robinson, which you can see at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ujy7Pjr9hrs although the City intends to get it up on their website. But the middle of their delegation was rundown of what’s being planned for the Darlene Ryan Port Robinson Community Centre. This portion included a plea to fix at least the roof of the Centre so that it can function for the residents.
In case you didn’t catch it, the common thread is the less than ideal condition of the City of Thorold’s buildings. Because of constant deferrals to keep taxes down as much as possible, the deterioration of these buildings has gotten to the point where some of them aren’t worth as much as their repairs. Deferred repairs on Chestnut Hall in 2014, for instance, had gone up by almost one third over the previous year.
The total in replacement costs, 2014 deferrals and repairs gleaned from the 2014 budget and various reports that came out over the past couple of years gives us a total of $24,924,950. That’s without factoring in any new repairs which may now be necessary. It also allows for the cheapest solutions and lowest estimated numbers where ranges are given. Some of these costs have been mitigated slightly by emergency work (mostly roofs) that had to be done by way of budget overruns, but then there are probably enough new costs to make up for them.
Council is faced with a monumental mess. During 2014 budget deliberations, Thorold’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer) stated that the City is not allowed to borrow enough to do all the work. And, should the Hydro Reserve be spent, it would be necessary to first pay off the debts that are effectively being serviced by the interest from the Reserve, leaving little money to do anything.
But that doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable. The feds will be going into an election next year and will be looking to buy votes so it’s possible that Thorold can manage to snag some grants if they’re “shovel ready”. They might also have to make some hard decisions, such as selling properties or temporarily doing without a second arena.
These decisions will certainly be some of the greatest tests for the new Council and it will be interesting to see what they do. These issues can’t be put off much longer.