Mark Arike: County roads need a big boost
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | August 23, 2018|
As someone who has lived in Haliburton County for about 17 years, I’ve had the privilege of exploring much of this vast geographic area. But, unfortunately, that has meant travelling several roads that have seen better days.
I was reminded again when I hit Harburn Road to go to an all-candidates meeting at the Haliburton Lake Cottagers’ Association’s hall. I don’t go along this road often, so I wasn’t prepared for the potholes and bumps I’d encounter. In a couple instances, I said a prayer for my car, hoping I didn’t do some serious damage to a wheel or tire upon impact.
So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that roads were one of the top priorities at the meeting. Residents and cottagers expect more—and I can’t blame them. Whether you have a small cabin in the woods or a multi-million dollar “cottage” on the lake, your journey to and from your property shouldn’t seem like a mission to avert landmines.
The county and Dysart (where the meeting was held) have roads departments and budgets. But, as it was stressed at the meeting, they are doing the best they can with the funds they have. Many years ago, the province paid for 70 per cent of their road repair costs, said incumbent Dysart Mayor Murray Fearrey. This was in the millions. And in the 1970s, there were times they got up to 90 per cent funding to build and repair various county roads. But all of this money stopped flowing because the government at the time identified other priorities, according to Fearrey. Now, the only provincial grants Dysart and the county get (if they’re lucky) is for bridge work. Municipalities must turn to taxpayers for road repairs and maintenance.
At the meeting, it was suggested that a one-time, five per cent tax hike across Dysart could be the answer. But that would mean taking more money out of the pockets of low-income earners who are already struggling to pay their bills. Back to the government. The Ford PCs need to take a serious look at increasing infrastructure funding for rural communities like ours. According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)—an organization that represents 444 Ontario municipalities—a $4.9 billion annual gap is forming between municipal revenues collected (mainly property taxes and user fees) and what’s necessary to pay for services, provincial mandates and infrastructure.
During this week’s AMO Conference, Premier Ford promised to work together with municipalities on important issues that affect residents. He also vowed to get highways and roads “back into shape for the millions of families, workers and businesses who use them every day.” Let’s hope this includes Haliburton County, and translates into a much-needed annual boost for our infrastructure. We look forward to hearing more.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.