Infrastructure innovation

Mapleton council continues to be innovative in its efforts to raise necessary funds to maintain local infrastructure.

Already under discussion is the implementation of development charges on agricultural construction projects. The idea has received a rough ride from local farmers and area farm organizations and Mayor Neil Driscoll indicated last week in an interview with the Community News that he wasn’t optimistic about prospects for the proposal. The mayor feels it’s unlikely to proceed without notable expression of support from ratepayers at a public meeting on Jan. 27 at 7pm at the Maryborough Community Centre in Moorefield.

“Hopefully enough of the public will stand up and say this is the way we should be paying for our rural roads, but I don’t see it happening,” said Driscoll.

In what appears to be a contingency plan, Driscoll also said he has asked council to consider the idea of a special infrastructure levy in order to alleviate the cash crunch. The idea would be similar to a 2% levy for bridge projects imposed in Centre Wellington in 2015, which the township is hoping it will be able to drop by 2022.

Both concepts are creative and not without merit for a cash-strapped municipal government that must provide adequate roads to meet both local expectations and provincially legislated mandates, despite constant and legitimate cries for relief from the besieged local taxpayers.

The agricultural development charges would recognize the increasing impact of large scale farming operations on municipal roads due to the size of modern equipment. Farmers naturally don’t like the idea. However, no industry likes to be the target of a tax or user fee and sometimes such charges are both necessary and fair. An unbiased eye is needed here.

The special levy would provide the opportunity to raise funds for infrastructure in extremely transparent fashion. Whatever the rate set through such a levy, it would be separate, visible and less likely to be simply absorbed into the regular levy as a permanent tax increase. In theory, it could be removed when financial circumstances warrant, say around the time the province decides to implement a method of providing the farm tax rebate without penalizing rural municipalities (or, more likely, when the skies open up and begin to rain $100 bills).

Regardless of their merits, neither proposal is likely to be an easy sell to the electorate, or perhaps even around the council table.

But regardless of the result, no one should be dumping on council for looking for innovative ways of getting a job done. Clearly, these people are trying.