City of Ottawa told to double infrastructure repair spending
City staff are recommending the City of Ottawa doubles the money it spends to fix roads and aging buildings.
Ottawa allocates about $80 million in its annual budget for infrastructure repairs, but city staff said that number should be bumped to about $165 million a year.
The recommendation to the city's finance and economic development committee follows an evaluation of the city's $32 billion worth of physical assets, including roads, bridges, parks and community centres.
Each asset was given a rating from very good to very poor.
About 25 per cent of the city's transportation assets — which include roads and bridges — were rated as poor to very poor condition.
The report comes two weeks after a sinkhole opened up and swallowed a car travelling eastbound on Highway 174 near the Jeanne d'Arc exit. It took the city close to two weeks to replace the damaged storm drain pipe that had caused the sinkhole.
Mayor Jim Watson said the report was a reminder the city needed to get the basics right.
"People expect to turn on the tap and get clean water, and that when they are going down a road or sidewalk that it’s safe and secure," said Watson.
Watson said although public buildings like the Laroche Community Centre and the Lincoln Park Tennis facility are listed in poor condition, they do not pose a danger to the public.
To pay for the higher repair bill the city would either have to raise property taxes, cut expenditures elsewhere or borrow money.
Mayor Jim Watson and council have made a commitment to keep taxes at or below 2.5 per cent for their four-year term.
City officials said they won't increase taxes for repairs — so the city treasurer was asked to crunch more numbers on how the city's budget would be affected if they double the repair budget.
That will likely include more long-term debt.
"The City of Ottawa has a very strong credit rating," said city treasurer Marian Simulik. "We are nowhere near the debt limits imposed by the province or actually those imposed by city council."
The committee meets again on Oct. 2nd to examine the report again.