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Mayors give MP an earful on infrastructure


Everymayor in Prescott-Russell had some- thing to say whenMP Francis Drouin asked for suggestions on how the federal infras- tructure funding program could be more “user-friendly” for rural municipalities. Drouin kept busy for most of an hour, scribbling down suggestions and comments during a noon roundtable meeting May 25 with the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR)council. North Glengarry Township Mayor Chris McDonell also sat in on the session to add his feedback to the Liberal MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. “What we’re really trying to do is pro- vide the best (funding) program possible,” Drouin said during an interview following the meeting. The MP wants to have a report ready before June 9 to present to Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi to help determine any changes to Phase Two next year of the federal infrastructure support fund for muni- cipal and regional governments. He noted that the one-third cost-sharing formula between the two senior-level governments and local governments still applied tomuni- cipal infrastructure aid projects under the program. “Does that still make sense for small rural municipalities?” said MP Drouin. “Maybe not. I need to hear from you.” All of themayors present for theWednes-

MP Francis Drouin (left) listens and takes notes during a roundtable session with the mayors of Prescott-Russell about the federal municipal infrastructure support program. —photo Gregg Chamberlain

day noon-hour meeting listed water and sewer services as a prime concern for their areas. Mayor McDonell noted that North Glengarry Township is looking at a multi- million-dollar project to improve the water supply setup for the Village of Maxville. A sustainable and reliable funding pro- gram for municipalities was also a priority. Mayors and counties staff suggested that any surpluses at the end of a year in the infrastructure support fund should go into the federal gasoline subsidy program to help boost the annual gas tax subsidies that all municipalities in Canada receive. “In my opinion,” said Robert Kirby, East Hawkesbury mayor, “increasing the gas tax

(subsidy) works for everyone.” The federal gas tax subsidy has no conditions attached other than the money goes towards municipal infrastructure. Counties mayors indicated this would be a better source of aid for municipal road improvement needs. Both Warden Guy Desjardins, who represents the City of Cla- rence-Rockland at UCRP council, andMarc Clermont, counties public works director, noted that while some counties roads may qualify for federal infrastructure program funds, most municipal roads do not because they are not consideredmajor thoroughfares under the program guidelines. “In Clarence-Rockland, we’re bogged down,” said Desjardins. “We’ve been screa- ming for that (road assistance funds) for years.” Mayor François St-Amour of The Nation Municipality wondered if the next phase of the federal infrastructure programwould put more emphasis on regional work projects applications. He noted that could work well for joint municipal projects in the UCPR like sewer or water service improvements and extensions between two or more com- munities. “We could be very well-served with a regional water project,” St-Amour said.

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