By Chris Pickup
We’ve heard a great deal of boasting over the last couple of years about the excellent state of the county’s finances, and that they’re in the best shape they have ever been.
This is likely true, but it’s also true that they ought to be because the county has had a couple of advantages previous councils did not, bringing $100 million into the community over the last eight years.
One is the windfall that came from Samsung when the province foisted industrial wind turbines on us. That money, to be paid over 20 years, was the seed money for the Community Vibrancy Fund, and council voted to spend or commit all of it in this last term.
More than three-quarters of it has already been spent or committed on various projects in the four wards it was allocated to, even though it will be 2040 before the last payment is received.
The sale of Haldimand Hydro to Hydro One for $72.4 million on June 30, 2015 provided the basis for the Haldimand Hydro Legacy Fund. Council passed a resolution to preserve the principal proceeds in perpetuity, only spending the earnings on its investments.
In April 2016 the county revised its investment strategy. The hydro capital funds are pooled with other investments at the corporate level. There is currently $171 million invested, 46% of which is fixed earnings and 54% growth. They are presently earning 5%.
The new Growing Communities Reserve Fund (GCRF) gets its seed money from an annual transfer of $750,000 from the Hydro Legacy Fund’s investment earnings and the remaining uncommitted balance from the 20% unallocated component of the Community Vibrancy Fund, as well as any future green-related monies.
The GCRF is a vehicle to fund large municipal projects not in the ten year capital budget. This the fund that had some councillors jonesing for an indoor pool.
Whatever the first project to be funded, it must be decided in consultation with the whole county. No more of these half-assed meetings that hardly anyone knows about, followed by a council decision that has residents playing catch up.
There has to be some way to let the majority of constituents voice their opinion on what they would like to see, then vote on it.
There are many recreational activities for youth and adults in Haldimand already. Arenas for one are not operating to their full potential. Would an indoor pool be used much once the novelty wore off? Many people view swimming as an outdoor summer activity.
Some suggestions made during this campaign have revolved around seniors housing, senior care, low cost housing. We have been told those should be funded by upper levels of government, however the province is fighting a debt and deficit burden that most likely will preclude anything much happening on the social scene anytime soon.
Since the county is in such a good financial condition, why not use some of the funds to take care of our own? What about a heated spa pool to provide residents who have limited mobility, either inbred or acquired, from children to seniors, a space to exercise without overstressing their sore spots, with instructors to lead classes.
There are many things we should be able to do for residents if only we think outside the box.
And don’t forget to vote on Monday!