Five year plan includes $117 million in capital projects in Wellington

Councillors got their first taste of what is to come in 2011 with a look last week at Wellington County’s five year plan and a lead-in to the 2011 budget process.

With a projected $117-million in capital projects over the next five years, Wellington County treasurer Craig Dyer is projecting average increases to the overall county levy of 3.5% for each of the next five years.

Two-thirds of the five year capital plan is tied up in various roads projects, including roads, bridges and culverts.

Next in line is the completion of the new OPP detachment in Aboyne [replacing the Fergus detachment building] and a proposed replacement of the Palmerston detachment offices.

In addition, projections include completing work on the Puslinch library and the proposed expansion of the Harriston library.

Other large capital projects under consideration include a northern tree nursery to complement the Green Legacy nursery in Puslinch, as well as various social housing project repairs and renovations.

A special meeting of Wellington County council was held on Jan. 7, to give councillors a heads up prior to looking at various committee level budgets for 2011.

Warden Chris White said with the number of new councillors on board it was worth bringing everyone up to speed as a council regarding the five year plan.

Dyer said it was also a chance for council to ask questions about service levels, capital projects or other issues related to the budget. Dyer said the budget packages themselves have started to be circulated.

He said all the boards and committees were meeting next week to discuss staff reports regarding the budget for those particular committees.

Part of the presentation was to let know council see where the county sits regarding the budget for 2011 and upwards to 2015 and to provide an idea of the major issues from both an operating and capital perspective.

Highlights of the plan

Dyer provided an overview of what is in that plan, which includes $117-million in projected capital investment over five years.

At the same time, the estimated 2011 operating expenditure is $167-million.

“Our projected tax increase [is] 3.2% in 2011 and between 3% and 3.5% over each of the next four years.” He stressed the numbers are not final yet, with additional fine-tuning required.

“But I certainly don’t expect these numbers to change significantly.”

He explained that of the $117-million in projected spending, over 83% of capital spending will be funded from taxes and reserves. Dyer said that suggests the county is not overly reliant on grants and subsidies from other levels of government to accomplish the five year plan.

Second, he said, “it shows we are not overly reliant on borrowing either.” Only 2.4% of the capital plan will be funded by borrowing, he added.

In short, he said there are five options to finance capital projects: property taxes, reserves, grants and subsidies,  development charges or long-term financing.

“Our approach on grants over the last 10 years is that we don’t budget for them unless we know for certain that we’re going to get them,” he said.

Dyer added the county’s development charges bylaw has been in place for several years now and are applied to the growth-related portion of the costs.

He called long term financing “the last resort” and said the best example of that is the Wellington Terrace.

“The $5 million project in 2004 would have been impossible to tax for in one year. We did not have that kind of money sitting in reserves.” As a result, the debt financed project will be paid for over a 20-year period.

“That is the kind of project that makes perfect sense, in my mind, to fund in that manner.”


Dyer said the $58-million in roads construction, bridges and culverts, and resurfacing projects makes up the majority of the capital plan. He said some of that will be funded through the use of Federal Gas Tax funds

He added there is also $8.4-million planned for roads equipment to be funded from reserves.

The big project will be the rebuild of the county’s central garage on County Road 7 between Elora and Guelph. Dyer noted there is already council direction to move forward with the project, as the existing  building is slated for demolition and will be replaced  by a new garage built. That work is scheduled for  2012.

He said the county is most of the way through the design process. The plan includes replacement of the fuel tanks in 2011 and construction of the new building to take place as soon as the snow is gone in the spring of 2012 in order to have it complete before the snow falls later that year.

Solid Waste

Dyer said there is a estimated $1.6-million in equipment replacement over the next five years. In addition, $4.6-million in improvements are slated at both active landfill sites and transfer stations

Also, $925,000 worth of work is projected for Wellington County’s 16 closed landfill sites. That particular work is funded through the county’s landfill closure reserve.

Emergency Management

In the area of emergency management, Dyer said the county has started the process of getting emergency generators into its roads garages.

Plans also include getting emergency management software and upgrades of county fire paging equipment.

Police Services

As one major project is wrapping up in Centre Wellington, another one is proposed for northern Wellington.

Dyer said the new Centre Wellington OPP operations centre is well under way and scheduled to open this spring.

Most of that project is already funded, but there is still about $1.8-million to be funded in 2011.

On the books for consideration is a new police detachment building in the northern part of the county.

“This would replace the existing building in Palmerston which is too small and inadequate for its long-term use as a police station,” he said, adding the estimated cost is $7.5-million spread over 2011, 2012 and 2013. To accomplish that, Dyer said there will need to be a site search and land acquisition, with design and start of construction in 2012 with a project completion in 2013.

“There’s a fair bit of work to be done on this project. It’s a very difficult one at this point to put a number to because we really haven’t started the discussion in terms of the sizing and whether there is interest from the province in putting provincial complement officers into the building such as in Rockwood. There’s still a fair bit of work that needs to be done,” Dyer said.

But, he added, there has been discussion by the Wellington County Polices Services Board in the past, “and we wanted to at least get this process going to get some money identified within the budget.”


Although there have been major library projects over the past several years to improve library services throughout the county, more are projected in the five year plan.

Dyer said $5.1-million is planned over the next five years. That includes the 2011 completion of the Puslinch branch and 2011/2012 Harriston branch expansion project.

He noted renovations are complete on the Elora and Mount Forest Carnegie library branches and Harriston is the next one on the list. Dyer said land has been acquired next to the Harriston library, and the design work is about to commence. He anticipated tendering to begin mid year with completion anticipated in 2012.

In addition, improvements are planned in the Aboyne branch, including the façade in 2011 and roof in 2013.

Social Services

Dyer said from a capital perspective the county invests between $2- to $2.5-million per year on the 1,189 social housing units, with some in the county and some in the City of Guelph. Those costs are shared with the city.

Dyer added there is also close to $4-million in 100% provincial funding for repairs and retrofits of social housing units.

He also said there was almost $7-million allocated for one of the infrastructure programs – with about $3 million spent last year, and the remainder to be spent in 2011.

Plus, the county is planning renovations to the current OPP facility in Fergus to create a satellite social services office. He believed $350,000 was included in the budget for that work.

Hospital Grants

With respect to hospital grants, Dyer said council has committed $5-million for the redevelopment of Groves Memorial Community Hospital. He added that $960,000 was already provided as part of land acquisition in 2008.

Dyer said there is a balance of $4,040,000 outstanding for 2014-2015. He added there is also one other request before council right now from St. Joseph Hospital in Guelph and that a report on the hospital grant policy should be coming to Wellington County councillors later this month.

“There will need to be further discussion of that policy before any further commitments are made,” he said.


Dyer stated additional information has come from Guelph regarding ambulance services, therefore he believed more time discussing the matter was warranted. He said the county is responsible for it share of the cost of ambulances [about 40%] being purchased by the city.

On average three ambulances are replaced each year, however the city is proposing to add a new ambulance [not a replacement] in 2011 to meet new provincial standards.

Debt projections

From a debt perspective, Dyer said there is debt approved previously, but not yet issued, including $1-million for the Wellington OPP detachment building in Aboyne and the Provincial Offenses Act [POA] shared cost with Guelph’s renovation of its old city hall into a new POA court.

Dyer said the county contribution was around $6-million, about half of which came from reserves, with about $2-million financed and around  $549,000 still on the books.

Of the new debt in this five year plan, he said the only portions the county is considering to debt finance are an additional $833,000 for the OPP facility in Aboyne, $2-million of the $7.5-million for the OPP facility in north Wellington and the growth-related component of the central works garage.

He said that can be accomplished because reserve provisions in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 levies for the north Wellington police facility will minimize debt requirements.

He said overall, it pushes the debt load to just over $30-million until about 2012, when the principal starts to decrease since no other projects are in the forecast. Debt servicing costs are relatively consistent at roughly between $4- to $5-million during each year of the five year plan, he said.

Dyer contended that in a $70-million levy and only $4-million towards debt servicing, gives council a lot of flexibility in funding new initiatives.