While I appreciate — and share — Mr. Howard’s concern for our paved streets, I’m compelled to clarify some of the assertions in his letter to the editor [last] week. (‘Paving budget and choices by Smithers council’)
In 2004, the only tax-funded paving budget was the Town’s Major Patchwork Program, set at $120,000 per year. This was increased to $150,000 per year in 2007.
(Other paving investments did occur during the 2000s: Highway 16 upgrades, Downtown Curb and Gutter Repaving, Pacific Avenue, and sections of Tatlow and Dahlie Roads. These were all one-time projects funded with grants and long-term borrowing).
In 2011, council and I brought in consistent, dedicated annual funding for repaving with the introduction of a new Road Capital Tax. In the first year of the tax, we raised $200,000 in additional revenue. Coupled with the $150,000 major patchwork budget, this brought our annual investment to $350,000. Over the years, we’ve increased this amount and this year we’ve invested $510,000 in roads and sidewalks ($400,000 for roads, $110,000 for sidewalks).
Our core, year-over-year capital funding for paving is now at a higher level than at any point in our Town’s history.
Mr. Howard also asks whether council is making its own repaving decisions, or relying on staff and consultants. Residents should be relieved that elected officials aren’t setting paving priorities based on their opinions about which streets are getting bumpy, but rather on scientific analysis. The recently commissioned Tetra-Tech study provides an in-depth, objective assessment of the condition of every street in our town. Town staff recommends priorities based on this assessment and to date council has wisely supported their recommendations.
With regard to the frontage road that runs beside Chandler Park, the Town consulted Tetra-Tech, who recently analyzed the condition of the asphalt and roadbed on that section of street. Their analysis confirmed that rehabilitation of the street was necessary.
As your mayor, I remain committed to maintaining our core infrastructure and ensuring that our decisions are made based on the best possible information. We’ve made progress, and there is a lot more to do. If anyone has concerns or questions regarding our approach, I’d be happy to sit down for a coffee and discuss them in detail.
Mayor of Smithers