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Local improvement policy overhauled

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The town no longer will initiate local improvement projects and stick residents with the bill after council opted Monday night to approved revisions to the policy.

As a follow-up to a directive from council last summer, municipal planner Faye Flatt presented council with a revised local improvement policy.

“There has been previous discussion that the town’s practice of utilizing local improvement charges to facilitate capital projects has been an imposition and a burden on the taxpayers,” she said in her report to council.

“This policy attempts to mitigate the burden by giving the taxpayers the ability to initiate the local improvement process,” she noted.

“This does not imply the town will not continue to exercise significant control over the process as it relate to the prudence of the requested works,” she added.

“The biggest change is this: Before, council could say, ‘We want to put a curb and gutter down this street.’ And then go ahead and force the property owners to pay 50 percent,” Mayor Dan Onichuk explained after Monday night’s meeting.

“The key change here is if it’s initiated by the town, whatever the project is, then the town will pay for it,” he added. “If it’s initiated by the property owners, and enough of them sign up and agree to do it, then the property owners will pay for it.”

The mayor noted there will be a certain obligation by the town to do maintenance work on a project it initiated, such as a sidewalk, if that same project fell into disrepair and posed a safety concern.

Mayor Onichuk noted the major drive to review the local improvement policy came about last summer when several projects, such as sidewalks on Front Street and in the west end of town, were on the table.

“There was the whole question of the sidewalk in the west end, where you had people walking down a two-lane highway—no shoulder, no nothing. It was dangerous,” the mayor remarked.

“So the town initiated getting that sidewalk put in, and at that point in time, Coun. Drysdale said, ‘We really need to look at this because it’s not right we’re initiating it and pushing it onto property owners,’” added Mayor Onichuk.

“The same question came into play when the La Verendrye parkway was done,” he continued. “There was major sidewalk put in there and nobody asked the residents to pay for that.

“It’s a town initiative, and the town should pay for it because everybody gets the benefit.

The mayor said the same thing can be applied to other areas.

“If a sidewalk goes up along the one side of Robert Moore School where there currently is no sidewalk, should the property owners have to pay that, should the board of education pay that, or it that just a safety issue just the town and board should deal with.

“I think it’s something that’s used by the majority of people,” Mayor Onichuk noted. “It’s out there for everyone, the town should put it in its budget and do it, and not push it upon the residents.”

As for projects that aren’t on the town’s construction schedule but residents would like to see done, those property owners can band together and pay for them.

“If you’re on a street where you have no sidewalk, and it’s in a residential area and the majority of the people on that street want the sidewalk there, make the application to the town and share the cost,” said Mayor Onichuk.

Coun. Drysdale noted at Monday night’s council meeting that this revised policy was “a much more modern policy,” adding “most communities have abandoned local improvements” as the town was handling them.

Council unanimously voted in favour of the revised policy.

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