My thinking on Sustainability as an Economic Priority

This article only tells part of the story from last night’s Council meeting.

I’ve had the pleasure of sitting on the Sustainability committee in St. Catharines for the last 6 months.  One of the things that has become a major priority of the committee, in the wake of the Sustainability report (which I can’t find on the city website, or I’d link to it), is an anti-shelving policy; that is, don’t just look at the pretty report and ignore it, actually implement it.  One problem for Councillors has been the lack of tangible projects we can embark on right now – many projects would cost a great deal of money, and are hard to understand in terms of how they will make things better.

The point I made last night, however, should be clear and tangible to everyone.  Our infrastructure deficit is growing, and we’re not being proactive in making sure funding is available to replace, rebuild and maintain our infrastructure at current funding levels.  A tangible example: it is the City’s stated goal to maintain our city-controlled roads at a PCR (Pavement Condition Rating) of at least 75 (on a scale of 1 to 100).  We are currently sitting at a PCR of 72 – not quite there, but hopefully on the way . . . except that, by maintaining the current level of expenditure, we’ll see our PCR deteriorate to 68.5 over 10 years.

Another tangible example: we should be budgeting for 2% of the total value of the watermains in the city to maintain sustainability, approximately 8.96 million dollars.  We’ve budgeted, however, 1.08% of the value, or 5.5 million dollars.

Neither of these makes sense.

If we want a city that doesn’t fall apart at the seams, we need to replace key infrastructure when the need arises.  To do that, we need to ensure that the appropriate money is budgeted to take care of the infrastructure.  If facilities were maintained properly, multi-million dollar replacements might be spaced otu a little more realistically.  When infrastructure reaches the end of its useful life, it needs to be replaced.  It’s not complicated.

With that in mind, I’ve asked Financial Management Services to report back on how we’re going to reach sustainable levels of funding for key infrastructure in a timely manner.  I have a lot of faith that our staff will find a way to get us there.  I look forward to getting that report back within the next 6 months.