Mark Lumley, chair of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, called on the Sarnia City Council to continue improving the city’s financial viability while focusing more on economic development during a presentation on the 2017 budget.
Lumley emphasized the historical role the Chamber continues to play in representing local businesses and commented on the Chamber’s support for debt reduction and the competitive industrial class tax structure.
“We are appreciative of initiatives that include the Asset Management Plan, the identification of various vacant properties and the review of customer service provided by the Planning and Building Department,” said Lumley.
“We also think there is an opportunity for what we consider to be a strategic pivot in addressing the issue of infrastructure, something that has been raised fairly recently in a staff report to Council,” he added.
“We find it alarming to see that of the City’s nearly $2 billion in linear assets, a significant amount of money—$235 million—is needed to replace assets that are so outdated that they can no longer be rehabilitated.”
Lumley said the Chamber is encouraged that some $37 million in capital spending is proposed for high priority projects.
“We are, however, very concerned that that infrastructure backlog remains unaddressed. Indeed, based on what we see before us, a good part of the capital that is being proposed comes from reserve funds, which essentially means that we are drawing from savings rather than injecting new funds that are badly needed for infrastructure,” Lumley told Council.
While Lumley conveyed the position of the Chamber, that the city should not take on new debt as a means of covering general operations, “City Council ought to consider options for addressing the infrastructure problem in a way that paves the way … if you pardon the pun … for true progress in this critical area.”