2013-10-28 at 21:11
City manager Tim Commisso listens to city council Monday night.
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Plenty of internal concerns didn’t stop city council Monday night from unanimously approving a report on Thunder Bay’s infrastructure priorities.
The report included a list of major capital projects scheduled to start in the next four years and valued at more than $1 million. But several councillors worried how the city was going to pay for those projects and if the plan would handcuff future city councils.
At issue was a particular paragraph stating that whenever debt matured, those savings would then go into the city’s enhanced infrastructure renewal program, set up several years ago to tackle the city’s infrastructure deficit.
For 2014 the city has $1.6 million available from retired debt. The next time debt is retired for the city will be in a decade.
This led Westfort Coun. Joe Virdiramo to suggest an amendment, which was also approved, that council vote on the idea and projects on a yearly basis. He worried simply allowing the money to be transferred without question meant it would automatically be included in the city budget, with no discussion allowed.
There might come a day where a future council might want or need to use the money for something else, he said.
“I feel council should have some say because we forget,” Virdiramo said.
It would also make the process more transparent, Coun. Mark Bentz said. Also it gives future councillors a chance to turn down the idea of continuing payments if they need to do so.
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“(Otherwise) It just becomes the way things are done and people might not know,” he said.
“It avoids a policy that states to the community that any debt they assume is forever.”
Other councillors, like Red River`s Brian McKinnon, said city council has an opportunity to vote on items like that every year during budget deliberations.
"None of this will happen each year until its approved by council, that’s what we do in January,” he said.
City manager Tim Commisso said there are projects on the list that have no financing attached, but approving the report gives administration an idea where the city wants to go and provides council with funding options on how to get there over the coming years.
Commisso said any major project would still need council's approval throughout the process. The money wouldn't just disappear into budgets.
"It's about trying to put more money (in) and make it available for renewal," he said.
Coun. Linda Rydholm initially said she wasn't comfortable approving a strategy that doesn't necessarily have dollar figures attached and how things will be paid for.
"Nobody goes and buys something without knowing where it's going and how much it's going to cost over the years," she said.
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