MH forgoes funding application
By Sue Tiffin
In a tie vote broken by Mayor Brent Devolin at a July 25 council meeting, Minden Hills council opted to not submit an application for federal help through the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund.
Eligible projects under the DMAF include new construction of public infrastructure including natural infrastructure; and modification and/or reinforcement including rehabilitation and expansion of existing public infrastructure including natural infrastructure.
“Eligible investments aim to reduce the socio-economic, environmental and cultural impacts of natural hazards and extreme weather events when considering current and potential future climate change impacts,” reads the funding’s eligibility guidelines. “Projects must meet at least one of the national significance criteria, including reducing impacts on: critical infrastructure and essential services; health and safety of Canadians; significant disruptions in economic activity; costs of recovery and replacement; vulnerable regions.”
In presenting the opportunity to council, treasurer/CAO Lorrie Blanchard noted the funding criteria that projects must have a minimum of $20 million in eligible expenditures, including costs of design and planning, capital cost, and costs related to meeting specific program requirements, but also allowed for project bundling, which the fund criteria information page stated meant “including multiple assets that work in a complementary manner to reduce the risk within the same time period.” The DAMF offers up to 40 per cent cost-sharing.
Travis Wilson, director of public works, wondered if the township could work with the county on bundling projects based on the results of a planned LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) flood plain study.
Devolin said the LIDAR mapping project could not be done last fall because of weather, and is planned instead to happen this fall.
“Even if it does get done this year, it’s going to take over a year to crunch the data so you can actually do something with it,” he said. “The reality is, we can throw something at the wall, but I would say, conservatively, we’re two years from today knowing with any technicalities what that should be.”
Councillors brainstormed projects that might qualify for funding through the application, including any potential issues with waste management or the water treatment plant that had occurred because of flooding. Councillor Jean Neville raised the idea of an aquadam, a temporary barrier used for flood protection.
“This would fall under, I imagine, more scrutiny than the National Disaster Mitigation Program applications would,” said Wilson, of a program which denied funding to the township for another project recently. “They need to see a permanent fix, a permanent structure or fix, you know, if you’re building an actual permanent levee or something like that.”
Devolin said the funding application, with a deadline of Aug. 1, had “unfortunate timing.” “To me, the timing of this, we’re just not in a position to do this, and we’re probably a couple years away from really knowing how to sink our feet into something like this,” he said.
Councillor Pam Sayne agreed, but said she thought it was beneficial to put an application in and request something at this point, hoping to get what she called critical projects including rehabilitation of Sunnybrook Bridge and sewage treatment infrastructure on “somebody’s radar through an application.” She acknowledged that work done on the bridge now might look different after results of the LIDAR scan. Councillor Bob Carter also suggested applying for work to be done on Sunnybrook Bridge. Wilson said that work done on the bridge to support it withstanding high water levels wouldn’t deal with the public safety hazard issue of keeping water out of the downtown area and said he didn’t think the bridge work was one to seek funding help on.
“This application is looking for modification or reinforcement including rehab and expansion of existing public infrastructure including natural infrastructure so I just don’t think that falls into that category,” he said.
“It’s critical infrastructure, essential service, it’s a significant disruption to economic activity if it’s not done,” said Carter.
“I guess in my eyes it is critical infrastructure yes, the work we’re doing to it is more preventative maintenance than it is, the bridge is going to fall down, let’s do it now,” said Wilson.
Neville said the bridge had been compromised because of the high water due to floods.
“It has been deteriorating anyway, why not go for something rather than nothing?” she asked. “All they can say is no.”
Devolin said he thought applying for funding hastily could affect the township later if they applied for something considered “bonafide.” Councillor Jennifer Hughey asked if there was a financial cost to applying, which Wilson said there was not.
“I just think if there’s no cost, obviously your time is very valuable and I appreciate it immensely, but if there’s no financial [cost] we’re adding to it on top of your time, then there’s nothing wrong with taking a risk, to submit an application,” she said. “And if you need help, I’ll happily help you.”
Sayne, Neville and Hughey voted yes to submitting an application, while Nesbitt, Carter and Schell voted no, Schell at first saying she hadn’t decided, and then voting no based on staff’s recommendation. Devolin broke the 3-3 tie with a no.