Politics

Kingston city council delays several projects to find funding for strategic priorities

Kingston city council is about to finalize its list of strategic priorities, which include steps like taking action against climate change, increasing affordable housing and improving roads and sidewalks.

The challenge, however, is paying for some of these initiatives.

King’s Town district Coun. Rob Hutchison had staff look at projects that could be delayed by the city.

“I had a motion brought to find and to defer capital items for funding until we could address where we could deal with affordable housing and roads and sidewalks,” Hutchison explained.

Hutchison asked staff to come up with $18 million for affordable housing and $6 million for street and sidewalk repairs.

Staff came up with a $57-million list of projects that could be delayed. Those projects will now be pushed back by at least four years.

City staff also created an expanded list of funding for strategic priorities, focusing on items they hope to accomplish within the next few years.

Brock Street reconstruction will be deferred until 2023, saving $7 million, and the $22-million Byron parking lot has been deferred until 2022.

The $6.5-million fire station at Elliott and Division streets has been delayed to a date yet to be determined.

Kingston Fire and Rescue Chief Shawn Armstrong says the new station would improve response times to the north and east of the city by about five per cent.

Armstrong adds that delaying construction of the new station, which would replace the current station on Railway Street, poses no risk to area residents.

“Things will maintain status quo as we go forward, and as the new station comes on, things will improve incrementally,” he explained.

Kingscourt-Rideau Coun. Mary Rita Holland says council was fairly unified in the list of deferred projects. Her concerns lie elsewhere as council tries to keep tax increases minimal.

“I’m very concerned what will become of us when it comes to the operating side of our tax rate increase,” she said.

Holland says the changes from the new provincial government are the big unknowns as city politicians try to contain the municipal levy.

“We’re committed to going lower over the term of council, but we still haven’t seen the final impact of some of the provincial cuts and changes.”

Currently, council is aiming for a 2.5 per cent tax increase in 2020 and is looking to slightly reduce that number for the rest of the council term.

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