City staff report places infrastructure bill at $491 million, double recent estimates

By Gerry Barker

March 8, 2017

The city’s Corporate Asset Manager, Daryush Esmaili, told a meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole earlier this week there is $491 million worth of city assets.

The dollar figures only include those assets requiring repair or replacing aging assets including roads, sewer and water services, rinks and technology used at City Hall.

The report broke on Guelph Today Tuesday and was written by Tony Saxon.

Cited by Esmaili as being in “the red zone” with less than 40 years of lifecycle remaining, includes city parking assets, where 72 per cent of those assets have less than 40 per cent of their lifecycle remaining. Other red zone assets include Guelph Transit, information technology and culture and recreation.

The most startling statistic is Esmaili’s projection of keeping up with infrastructure repairs and replacement that will cost the city $125 million a year for the next 100 years.

Last fall, city council approved a 2017 infrastructure budget of $93 million.

Council also approved a special property tax levy of 1 per cent to fund infrastructure. That doesn’t even come close to raising $93 million. But then Coun. Mark MacKinnon moved that the levy of property be increased to two per cent. But the extra one per cent was dedicated to “City Buildings.” The motion passed and Councillors MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein were happy, as more money would be dedicated to the $60 million South End recreation centre.

At the same 2017 budget meeting, council delayed spending $700,000 for new parking meters on Wyndham Street. Instead council would use most of the money to start the architectural planning of the recreation centre in MacKinnon’s and Wettstein’s Ward.

That was a backdoor move to use capital money to fund their pet project.

Those two decisions, made in open council, were, as it has turned out, a monumental error in judgment by a council that had to know what the City Asset Manager and his staff, were working on.

The fall-out is a much needed parking control and added revenue is shelved until next budget. The two per cent property tax levy is halved to accommodate the wishes of the councillors representing Ward Six.

Just for the record, those same supporters of the “City Buildings” levy were told that any pre-contraction planning, estimated to cost $3.5 million, might have to be reviewed and increased because there is lttle hope for the capital spending budget to even think about the south end project. It is particularly important in view of the City Asset Manager’s report on the real cost of infrastructure repair and replacement.

The staff report states that the infrastructure estimates used during the 2017 budget were $259 million, almost half of what the staff is telling us today.

Now, we run a billion dollar corporation like the village idiots who are incapable of making the tough decisions to properly maintain our city and its core systems.

Instead we are trapped in a series of terrible management mistakes ranging from the $34 million police headquarters to the $26.6 million lost by GMHI. Throw in the $23 million paying 50 per cent more for a new city hall, and it’s easy to see that Guelph cannot afford these grandiose schemes any more.

The biggest cost to the city is the overhead costs to run it. Starting with a staff that is bloated and laden with special interest projects that cost money.

Our council, except for a few responsible members, is tone deaf to any criticism. The majority are self-absorbed collection of elected officials. Most of whom are so reliant on staff that much of their judgment is flawed and incompetent.

The loss of management talent, with a few exceptions, has denuded senior staff of key personnel, leaving chaos and mistakes.

The eight-page report by Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA, that detailed how the city could reduce its overhead but not cut services, was delivered to all councillors and Mr. Fung made a personal presentation to council.

We learned later that council dumped on the report making fun of it after Mr. Fung left the chamber.

Did we elect six-year olds to run our city? Their words and conducting our business behind closed doors would seem to be the case.

October 2018 cannot come soon enough to get the majority of this council out of the civic sandbox.

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4 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “City staff report places infrastructure bill at $491 million, double recent estimates

  1. Glen

    It would appear that “asset management” is the new “flavour of the day” around the council horseshoe, ever since a couple of councillors went to a seminar on it. That flavour of the day has now permeated the ranks of city hall. Most taxpayers practice their own form of asset management by maintaining their HVAC systems, major appliances, vehicles, and roofs and knowing they have to budget for replacement on a regular timeline. That quite a few city assets are in the last 40% of their life cycle is no surprise as that fits the profile of the useful life of a lot of the council members If members of council and staff are serious about having to replace assets on a regular basis, they should wrap their heads around the Pat Fung report and follow its outline to find the funds for infrastructure updating & future expenditures. Anything less and the “flavour of the day” will fade away to be replaced by next one expounded by a pied piper.

  2. Joe Black

    Yes we did elect six year olds.

  3. geo

    If for example firefighters in Guelph are going to start at $97,000/yr. then every single tax dollar is going to have to go to wages and salaries.

  4. Ron Minogue

    Funny!! While Sudbury has 3 developers vying to build an arena Guelph cannot get any developer to bid on an arena- Why? Apparently, all of a sudden, to me anyway, there is a pool attached to this “recreation centre”.
    Let’s save $60 million, get rid of the pool and get an arena built at no cost to the taxpayer.
    PS-One of the Sudbury developers owns the Sudbury Wolves, while Guelph subsidizes the Storm????

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