Infrastructure Funding Approvals Just One Part of the Puzzle

In 2019, a new grant program called Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program was announced. Eager to secure funding for some local projects, an application was made under the Community Culture and Recreation stream, where 73.33% of project funding requirements are covered by the Federal and Provincial governments.  When these grant opportunities arise, the window for application is always short, but municipalities are eager to secure funding that allows them to stretch their own taxpayer dollars for projects that might otherwise remain on the back burner indefinitely.

The program was designed to support small scale projects that would improve the condition of existing facilities, and included renovations and rehabilitations that address functionality and use of existing facilities, small-scale improvements to address accessibility, small new build/construction projects of recreation, cultural or community centre infrastructure (e.g., playing fields, tennis courts, small community squares).

The program was put on hold when the pandemic hit, but approval announcements have begun to trickle out.  At the end of April, the township received news that their application for funding for three projects totalling $1,571,250 was approved.  This does not mean there are plans for these projects that are ready to launch.  In fact, this is early stage in the process with no guarantee that even with this financial support, the projects will proceed.  

The grant application for the potential renovation of the old Millbrook Arena was intentionally vague.  The staff report upon which the application was based (Parks and Facilities report 2019-15) indicated that further public input would be required before any decision on the future of the facility was made.  There are a range of possible options that have already garnered support, ranging from demolishing the building and developing a community park, to updating the facility to allow it to continue as an indoor sports facility.  Other options will likely arise during the public input process.

Even if a popular plan emerges, there are other constraints that may affect if and when it is implemented.  

Municipal budgets must cover 26.7% of any project that relies on this funding.  Cavan Monaghan’s capital budget is currently facing pressure from several significant projects, including a new Fire Hall and the renovation of both Public Works yards.  Even generous grant funding does not automatically push a project up the priority list.  

Capital projects come with big price tags and long-lasting consequences.  There is a lot of work ahead before any project receives a green light, no matter how beguiling the opportunity. It may have been opportunistic to apply for the grant, but the decision to add to the capital expenditure requests will not be taken lightly.  So while it might never be bad time to apply for grants to help pay for worthwhile projects, receiving the funding doesn’t guarantee that projects automatically proceed.  Before a decision is made, ratepayers will have an opportunity to speak and Council will listen and, ultimately, decide. KG

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