Two-thirds of $1.5M SD&G paving surplus will be stashed

County Coun. Jamie MacDonald (North Glengarry) takes part in a county council meeting on Cisco Webex on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. MacDonald proposed and was supported in his plan to divide up a $1.5 million paving surplus to support Dundas Manor and cover COVID-19 expenses while still getting some extra culvert work done this year. (SD&G/Cisco Webex via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – Facing what county roads engineer Ben de Haan calls a “completely different era,” the county will be stashing most of a large paving surplus.

The estimated surplus is roughly $1.5 million. In previous years, that money would be used entirely to do extra road and culvert work – the mainstay of the county budget.

But with the projected financial loss due to COVID-19 of roughly $293,000, county council decided to only put $500,000 to extra culvert work and put the remaining $1 million away – $500,000 earmarked for its commitment to the construction of Dundas Manor and the other $500,000 for COVID-19 related expenses.

The money split was proposed by Coun. Jamie MacDonald (North Glengarry) and initially had a more generous commitment to roads ($750,000) and less to COVID-19 ($250,000) expenses before it was revised to three equal amounts of $500,000 based on the council discussion.

“I think that would be money well spent and we’d be taking care of our constituents as far as the pandemic costs and also moving forward to get the Dundas Manor paid off,” MacDonald said. In January, the county made a $4 million, five year commitment for the new long term care home in North Dundas.

MacDonald noted that the county has invested over $2 million in savings from O.P.P. contracts in previous years and it was time to hold on to this money given the financial uncertainly during the pandemic.

Coun. Al Armstrong (North Dundas) says it’s better to stash the money away and suggested the bigger envelope for COVID-19 funding. “(It’s hard) to get excited about a so-called windfall…say, in your driveway but your backyard is on fire,” suggesting that the money shouldn’t just stay in the roads department.

In a recorded vote, the plan passed 9-2.

The only county councillors to vote against it were Coun. Carma Williams (North Glengarry) and Coun. Bryan McGillis (South Stormont). McGillis said the county shouldn’t “start throwing money around just because it’s there,” even though the commitment will sit in the county’s back account until it’s needed, based on a contractual obligation.