The news that town residents are going to have to come up with another $870,000 to fund the town hall renovation is distressful, extremely worrisome, and most of all, it is heartbreaking.
In my opinion, this now out-of-control project was ill-advised from the start. Council had a choice between a $300,000 renovation, or a $3.5 million complete overhaul. There was a complete lack of historical planning for this obviously foreseeable upgrade, so zero dollars were saved for this project. Council made the decision to pursue their ‘dream’ project, without much regard at all for where the money was to come from. Every single councillor that voted ‘yes’ to this proposal should be sitting down today and having some deep thoughts about the effects of their decisions on this town.
To put some numbers to this, the cost over-run is going to add $253 plus interest to the tax bill of each and every taxpayer. The total project cost is now $4 million plus furnishing and equipment, call it $4.3 million in total. Put simply, every household will be paying $1,252 out of their pocket for this project. Also, let’s not forgot about the cost of interest, which could easily add another $350 per household to the final tally.
There is definitely some blame to be passed around on this debacle; this was a completely preventable issue. This project should never have been done on a cost-plus basis, whoever decided not to do this on a fixed-bid showed very poor judgement. The general contractor obviously should have a few fingers pointed at them, as should whoever in town administration was supposed to be overseeing the project and monitoring progress.
However, the lion’s share of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of council and their complete and utter failure to give town administration a mandate of fiscal responsibility. Council had a decision to pursue a low-cost solution and save money for a long-term project, or pursue a high-cost high-inflation-risk solution and borrow every cent for a building with a post-renovation life expectancy of 25 years. It is all well and good for council to be ‘furious’ at project cost over-runs, but the real issue here is that we, the taxpayers, should be furious that council borrowed millions and authorized the entire facility right from the beginning. This will end with zero dollars to spend on roads, parks, and other capital projects, and massive cutbacks on the services that we are supposed to be paying for.
You, the reader of this letter, could have taken your family on a nice long-weekend vacation for $1,250, you could have renovated your kitchen, bought winter tires, or even paid a portion of your already sky-high tax bill. Instead, you get to pay for the undeniably poor financial decisions of a few people in council who keep voting ‘yes’ to spending money without figuring out where it will come from. Phone or email your councillors, let them know that you elected them, and their new mandate is fiscal responsibility.
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