Budget Committee Talking About LIPs Again
The spectre of Local Improvement Programs (LIPs) has once again graced Council Chambers, as the Budget Committee discussed the issue.
In its report, the Engineering Department discussed four Petition In LIPs, which have been in the works for at least five years. These LIPs were initiated by area residents, who at the time wanted the City to do the work.
“The problem I see is the history of projects identified and left in limbo…the issues haven't gone away for these people. They are part of the infrastructure. Also, some alleys with gravel around apartments might want to initiate paving, lighting or whatever,” Councillor Don Mitchell said.
Mitchell was a leading force behind the Cast Iron Water Main LIP referendum through Citizens Advocating Sustainable Taxation (CAST), which saw that initiative defeated. The Cast Iron Watermain LIP would not have allowed property owners to petition it out.
The LIP projects discussed were the ones residents were requesting.
Councillor Mitchell has long stated that he does not like forcing residents to pay for improvements through an LIP but says they do have their place. As far as water mains are concerned, he favours a process of petitioning in.
Petitioning In is where a group of property owners initiate an LIP to have work done by collecting signatures from 50% of affected property owners, based on frontage. Petitioning Out is where the City initiates the LIP and property owners can gather signatures from affected property owners based on frontage totalling over 50% to stop the LIP.
An LIP is where adjacent property owners pay a portion of costs because they enjoy benefits from having the work completed.
Acting City Manager Myron Gulka-Tiechko pointed out that the City needed to commit funds to complete the work.
“The City (Council) has to commit funds to make these happen. Add money to the budget or take away from other priorities,” Gulka-Tiechko said.
“Council provided direction five or six years ago (through) an LIP and it just didn't happen,” Councillor Brian Swanson said, adding he was expressing his frustration that Council had provided direction and nothing had happened.
Mayor Frasier Tolmie stepped into the debate, pointing out that the issue predates the tenures of City Engineer Manager Josh Mickleborough and Public Works Manager Darren Stephanson. Neither were employed by the City when the LIPs were brought forward by Council.
“It's not fair for Administration to defend something they cannot answer to,” Mayor Tolmie said.
Councillor Dawn Luhning interjected, saying the debate needed to be respectful.
Finance Director Brian Acker pointed out that “it comes down to a source of funding…they need to be funded. If you do want to move it forward you need to deal with the funding.”
Discussion turned to the wording of a motion put forward by Councillor Chris Warren, who asked the projects be suspended for 2018 until a policy was adopted for 2019.
Councillor Mitchell proposed the word suspended be changed to “put on hold”, to indicate the work would proceed once a policy was developed for 2019, if property owners still wanted the work completed. He felt the wording of suspended could infer the projects would not proceed.
The motion passed.
Asked later about how any proposed LIP under a Petition In strategy might be affected by the cast iron water-main replacement program, Mickelborough stated that from an asset management point, there could be an effect.
It needs to be noted that the four LIPs discussed only have cast iron water mains in one location and that LIP was for sidewalk.
“The impact that cast-iron could have on a proposed LIP would depend on the work being proposed under the local improvement; and location of the water-main,” Mickelborough wrote, adding, "timing of the replacement would be another factor. If there is cast iron present and the proposed LIP is paving, this could be challenging and costly.”
Presently the cast iron water main replacement program focuses on high break areas. Paving programs are coordinated with the cast iron replacement program.
“The approach used is: if the cast-iron will not be replaced for an estimated 10 years or more we would proceed with the paving treatment…so from an asset management perspective (doing the right maintenance at the right time) LIPs can complicate things,” Mickelborough wrote.
Asset Management is looking after infrastructure such as roads, water-mains and sewer lines in a way where a certain level of service or condition is maintained within the limits of available funding.