Written by Diodora Bucur in the Orléans Star
Of Ottawa’s $600 million capital-works budget, more than $100 million will be used to upgrade infrastructure in the east end this year.
In an one-on-one interview with Orléans Star following the presentation of the budget last week, Mayor Jim Watson said the east-end community is getting a “significant” share of the city’s infrastructure money this year.
“It’s 103 million in the east end, out of the $600 million, which is quite significant,” he said. “The east end has done very well because the councillors have worked hard to let me know how important these projects are in their community. We are going to see additional investment in fire stations in the east end and parks.”Among this year’s projects:
- $30 million for the expansion of Trim Rd.;
- $17 million for the east-end extension from Navan Rd. to 10th Line Rd.;
- $9.5 million to upgrade St. Joseph Blvd.;
- $9.5 million for Mer Bleue Rd., between Innes Rd. and Navan Rd.;
- $38.8 million for the city’s share of the Hunt Club extension, on condition the province matches the amount.
- Orléans will also share $10 million with Barrhavan and Kanata for park-and-ride facilities;
The expansion of 174/17 did not make the cut.
Ottawa runs on $2.4 billion
The Watson administration is also hoping to keep the costs of running the city in check by slashing budgets in several areas, such as office expenses, printing, external consulting firms, and freezing the mayor’s salary.
“I’m very proud of our budget; it’s the first time we’ve seen the mayor and the city management work in the spirit of collaboration to co-present the document. It’s a very balanced budget,” Mayor Watson said. “So, we balanced that off against the need to invest in our community.”Other budget highlights include:
- Freezing recreational user fees for the first time since the municipal merger;
- 22 frontline paramedics with two new, fully-equipped ambulances and two new technicians to keep the ambulances in the streets;
- 45 new firemen to staff two new fire stations;
- 74 new bus drivers to reduce overtime and $161 million to improve the bus system;
- Free transit for seniors Mondays and Fridays after noon. However, transit fares are hiked by up to 2.5 percent. An adult monthly bus pass goes up to $94 from the current $91.5.
Slight tax hikes
Homeowners will see their property tax bill increase by 2.45 percent in urban areas.
That’s $75 on an average home, in addition to $12 levied for policing. Water rates are also going up by 4.5 percent, which means homeowners will cough up $540 annually for water. In rural areas, the property tax hike is set at 2.4 percent.
East-end councillors react
“Tax increases are half percent below inflation and, in the rural area, which is an important part of the east end, 2.4 percent – that’s the lowest tax increase in three or four years,” said Cumberland ward councillor Stephen Blais. “This is the best budget we’ve seen here in the east end in 10 years.”
Orléans city councillor Bob Monette welcomes the budget.
“There are a lot of positive things in this budget; one of the most important things that comes out of this budget is the capital-works (projects) that will be done in Orléans,” he said. “Major issues include the improvement of the bus services; no express routes will be cut in Orléans. In fact, instead of being cut as it was rumoured, there will be some improvements to the express routes.”
“When we look at the east-end of the city, there $103 million in new capital investments that will be made in the east end as a result of this budget,” added Blais.
As for Innes ward councillor Rainer Bloess, he called the budget “a good start.”