The District of Lake Country is in an unsustainable position when it comes to the state of its roads and is even contemplating taking some of its roads back to gravel to help make up for a $30 million backlog of needed improvements to its roadways.
The comments were made as Lake Country council accepted its Transportation for Tomorrow plan but sent staff back to the drawing board to try and find solutions to a funding shortfall that is getting worse to the tune of $1.5 million every year.
“This is our challenge as a community,” said Greg Bucholz, Lake Country’s infrastructure services director. “A lot of our roads were built in the 1970’s or earlier and they are starting to come to the end of their lifespan and we need to reconstruct. There is no magic solution.”
During his report to council, Bucholz told councillors many communities across Canada are feeling the same pinch when it comes to roadways and suggested going to non-paved roads is one solution, although it comes with problems and costs as well.
“This is reality. We see a lot of communities that if they can’t afford to pave, you have to go back to gravel roads,” he said. “The fact we may have to de-classify some roads, strip the pavement and put some gravel back for some of them, that may be a solution. But it will come at a cost too. The impact to taxpayers will be there. Council has to make a decision on what is the level of service they want to provide the community with.”
During public consultations about the district’s 20 year Transportation for Tomorrow plan, the district asked residents whether they would support a program of new roads by raising taxes. Less than 100 people responded and half of those said absolutely not when it came to raising taxes to support the transportation plan.
“I don’t care how many times you ask taxpayers to increase their taxes, you’re going to have 50 per cent of them say no because that’s what they are going to say,” said Coun. Bill Scarrow. “I believe we need to give our staff the opportunity to go forward and be creative and come back with funding options that may include a tax increase but also hopefully could include other sources of revenue.”
Bucholz says the district is in the position where it will have to start making decisions on how to deal with the severe problems on its 200 kilometres of roads. For now the transportation plan was accepted without any financial plan attached to it and district staff will investigate options to raise money through partnerships with higher levels of government or tax increases before presenting it back to council.