CORNER BROOK, NL — Churence Rogers believes changes to the provincial capital works funding program earlier this year were paved with good intentions, but left things a little bumpy for towns throughout the province.
The mayor of Centreville-Wareham-Trinity has brought forward a resolution on the issue to be considered at the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) annual general meeting underway in Corner Brook.
Rogers and the town he represents are asking MNL to lobby the province for a funding solution for roadwork that lessens the burden on rural communities.
“As it currently stands, it is unaffordable and unfair to small municipalities,” he said.
Rogers said he understands the premise to focus capital works funding on such initiatives as water and waste water – which continues to allow towns to avail of a 90/10, 80/20 or 70/30 cost-sharing arrangement depending on population — and that his town has focused on those projects.
However, the current three-year municipal infrastructure program leaves roadwork at a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement regardless of population.
“The 50/50 ratio effectively takes us out of the picture for roadwork,” Rogers said. “We have some roadwork, like most small towns, that desperately needs to be done.”
As a result, the town has not even applied for roadwork. It simply cannot afford to, according to the mayor. His town does not have the tax base or revenue generation to pay half the cost necessary to do roadwork in the town.
There are 18 kilometres of road in Centreville-Wareham-Trinity, he said. Some of it is still not paved and the rest is in need of upgrading.
Rogers acknowledged roadwork is a common demand from residents of his town, like most throughout the province. The roads that do have pavement were done 30-40 years ago, he said. The town is spending a considerable amount of money and staff resources to maintain what they do have with “patchwork.”
The multiple millions of dollars required to do the work is not something Rogers said he would ever imagine being allocated all at once. However, within a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement, he said the town is unable to even contemplate a multi-year plan to resolve the increasingly deteriorating infrastructure.
Rogers, the former president MNL, said the organization’s representatives need to talk to the province and the federal government to refocus cost-sharing ratios.
“We would like to see a cost-sharing ratio (that is) much more generous,” he said. “While maybe not necessarily 90/10 — of course we would love to see that — but something that makes it affordable or at least gives us a chance to be able to apply for funding.”
Also understanding the fiscal restraints of the province, he said the three levels of government could find a resolution.
“We all, as small municipalities, have streets in our towns that are in deplorable condition and in need of repairs,” he said. “Unless you get support from the other levels of government, it is tough to make any major improvements.”
Centreville-Wareham-Trinity Mayor Churcence Rogers’ proposed resolution to change cost-sharing ratio for roadwork on the table at Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador AGM:
Capital Funding for Roadwork, Town of Centreville-Wareham-Trinity
Whereas a safe and effective road transportation system is critical to the economic success of municipalities, especially those in rural or remote areas; and,
Whereas the financial limitations facing many rural municipalities means that they do not have sufficient resources to invest in expanding or renewing their local roads; and,
Whereas the cost of undertaking this kind of construction continues to increase; and,
Whereas the cost sharing formula for rural communities has required as little as 10 per cent of project cost from the municipality; and,
Whereas the provincial municipal capital works cost sharing formula for road construction requires a municipality, no matter their size or capacity, to contribute 50 per cent of the costs; and,
Whereas this cost sharing requirement is beyond the means of many rural communities;
Therefore be it resolved that Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador lobby the provincial government to work with the sector on a roads funding solution that lessens the burden on rural communities.