- Craig's Current
- Craig's Current - December 2023
Craig's Current - December 2023
Hello Ward 12,
As December comes to a close, it naturally feels like a time to reflect….and hopefully, relax. In November’s newsletter, I noted how this term of Council had just celebrated its first anniversary, and over the past few weeks, I have been able to reflect on what has been accomplished. Using the framework of my campaign platform, I have published my first annual Accountability Report. It’s a summary of the actions taken, motions moved, and general progress made on my commitments to you. I hope you find it informative.
Once you’re through that, please take the time to read the fulsome newsletter we have for you to round out 2023. In this issue, you’ll find news about the 2024 Rate (water) budget that Council approved last week, a refresher on snow-clearing services provided by the City, details on upcoming development applications in the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD), news on the re-opening of Southcote Rd, the launch of the Better Homes Hamilton heat pump program, updates on the Stormwater Fee Structure coming in 2025, and much more.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Craig’s Current, and more importantly, I hope you enjoy the holiday season with friends and family.
RATE BUDGET APPROVED (Water, Sewer, Storm Sewer)
The City of Hamilton has two distinct budgets that require Council approval: the Operating and Capital budget (funded by your property taxes), and the Rate budget (paid by your municipal water bill), which covers the costs for sanitary and storm sewers, and municipal drinking water. Deliberations for the Operating and Capital Budgets will begin in January, but the Rate Budget was finalized and approved by Council on Wednesday, December 13. The following is a summary of the Rate Budget.
The 2024 rate increase was approved at 10.04%. You may recall that, a year ago, the City forecasted a 10.04% increase for 2024, so on the surface, it would appear that the budget is exactly as expected. That is true, but it was not a straightforward process. Over the past year, the impact of the Province's Bill 23 (i.e. the downloading of costs to municipalities) added $17 million to our water budget and that meant the increase to your water rate would need to be doubled to 20%. The Mayor, recognizing the potential significant financial impact to Hamiltonians via the 2024 budgeting process, gave City staff direction to aggressively examine options to reduce 2024 increases. A high-level summary of available options to reduce increases include: a) drawing on emergency financial reserves, b) issuing long-term debt c) finding operating efficiencies d) prioritization or reduction in services levels to match our Term of Council Priorities, and e) soliciting financial support from upper levels of government.
The City has used reserves and found efficiencies to reduce the 2024 rate budget by $17.55 million and maintain the projected 10% increase. The percentage increase and annual dollar impact for an average residential customer can be broken down as follows:
2.39% ($20.95) by the City of Hamilton to cover the costs of replacing or rehabilitating aging infrastructure, program delivery, and absorbing the impacts of inflation.
7.65% ($67.05) attributable to the Province of Ontario and changes in provincial legislation, including the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23). This bill transferred much of the cost of growth that helps build water and sewer infrastructure from property developers to municipalities.
It's important context to know that Hamilton currently has one of the oldest water and sewer systems in Canada and our infrastructure in the lower City dates back to the mid-1800s. We have the second-oldest drinking water system and third-oldest wastewater system in Canada. Historically, we have underinvested in these systems and Council has approved plans to, over the next decade, ensure we continue to receive the level of service we have all come to expect.
I often receive feedback that the City should offset tax and rate increases by finding efficiencies, so I am happy to share the following numbers. Here is a summary of the excellent work City staff have done to reduce costs for the Water budget, saving over $21.5 million every year. $4.47 million of that amount is new savings based on recent decisions.
Insourcing utility locates program, rather than using contractors, to fulfill legal requirements before commencing work that may impact underground infrastructure will save approximately $3.3 million every year starting in 2025.
Contractual savings from insourcing wastewater analytics, and stormwater services will save $275,000 each, totaling $550,000 in annual savings.
The 2024 Operating budget review identified $620,000 in savings
Using trenchless technologies to rehabilitate pipes saves the City $13 million annually
Operating the City’s wastewater treatment infrastructure during off-peak hours, where possible saves $3.1 million annually
An in-house program to replace lead water pipes on private property saves $620,000 annually
Proactive leak detection program has saved an average of $358,000 annually since 2019
Hamilton's system currently has a combined 5,266 kilometers of water and sewer pipes and more than 250 separate facilities with a total value of over $14.6 billion ($4.25 billion of water, $3.14 billion of stormwater, and $7.25 billion wastewater assets). Approximately 146 kilometers of water and sewer pipes are identified for major repairs or replacement in the next five years.
The 2023 average residential water and sewer bill in Hamilton was $877. The 2024 average residential water and sewer bill will increase to approximately $965, and even with the 2024 increase, our rates will remain among the lowest in Ontario.
Winter Snow Removal
With the winter weather approaching, we wanted to provide a reminder about the snow removal process and safety tips to ensure the smooth delivery of City services following a snow event.
The City's targeted service levels for snow removal aim to have road and sidewalk clearing completed within 24 hours after the end of a snow event based on priority service areas. The clock starts after the completion of the winter event which includes but is not limited to stopped snowing, no drifting, blowing snow, or freezing rain. More details on service levels and prioritization for the various classifications of roads can be found here.
You can follow along using the plow tracker found here for roads and here for sidewalks. If your sidewalk/road hasn’t been cleared within 24 hours of the end of a snow event, we ask that you report your concern directly to City staff at [email protected] or by calling 905-546-2489. This is the most effective way to get quick action on your concern. They will not be able to respond to every inquiry but do make note of the information shared and take it into account as removal operations progress.
Residents are reminded that the clearing of windrows (the snow at the end of your driveway left by the plow) is the homeowner's responsibility. Knowing that we all have neighbours who are unable to do this work themselves due to medical or mobility concerns, we encourage all Ward 12 residents to help each other out if they are able.
When clearing snow, do not blow or place snow onto the roadway.
On waste collection day, place your garbage container, blue boxes, and green carts in a space that is visible. Do not place items on top of or behind snowbanks
Where possible, keep your vehicles off of the road during and immediately following a snowfall to allow for thorough plowing of roadways
Keep fire hydrants clear of snow to allow for emergency access
If there is damage to private property, please report the damage by calling 905-546-2424 ext. 5742 or emailing [email protected]. Note that the City does not replace or repair damaged landscaping items located within the City road allowance.
For more information about the City's snow-clearing response, please see the City's website
Snow Angels is a program to assist Hamilton seniors and residents with disabilities with a financial subsidy to help them meet the requirements of the City of Hamilton Sidewalk Snow Clearing By-law. The subsidy can be used to pay for snow removal needed to clear the sidewalk and to provide safe walking access to the front door and through the windrow left by the snowplow. This subsidy is not to be used for whole driveway snow clearing.
Applicants must meet ALL of the following criteria:
Be a resident of Hamilton
Own your home AND must live in the home during the winter season
Are unable to remove your snow and have no one living in the home who is physically able to remove snow
65 years of age or older and/or have a physical disability
Have a total household income below the current Statistics Canada Low-Income Measurement for your family size
Learn more at this link
Better Homes Hamilton
The City of Hamilton is on a mission to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. To do this City Council approved the design and development of a Home Energy Retrofit Program Opportunity: The Better Homes Hamilton program. Substantial energy bill savings can be achieved by making your home more energy efficient.
The Better Homes Hamilton (BHH) program is meant to provide low-barrier access to property owners with upfront capital to retrofit their buildings to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve energy efficiency, and live more comfortably.
To achieve this the City has launched the Better Homes Hamilton Pilot Project which aims to provide up to $1 million in loans to homeowners. The pilot stage of the program is targeting approximately 50 homes with each property able to receive a maximum of $20,000. Get more info and learn how to apply at this link.
448 Book Rd East - Community Meeting
Mark your calendars! An industrial warehouse complex and associated road widening is being proposed for Book Road E. The application is for 448 Book Road E, at the Southwest corner of Book Road E and Southcote Road. The developer is holding an online community meeting, and everyone is invited. Neighbouring residents, please watch for an invitation arriving in the mail.
The online meeting will be held on Thursday, January 18 at 7pm. This is one of several industrial warehouse applications being proposed within the AEGD - Airport Employment Growth District. Note that road widening to four lanes (45m wide) from Highway 6 to Smith Road is pegged at $14.5 Million for this 1.5 km stretch. Last month I moved for a cost benefit analysis of the AEGD road system to be undertaken. My motion was defeated in a 7-9 vote (see below).
You can join the meeting on the date and time above via Webex using this link:
Meeting number: 2633 035 8727
Password: Ancaster12 (26227837 from phones and video systems)
Join by phone:+1-647-484-1598
Access code: 263 303 58727
$500 Million Airport Road Network
The AEGD - Airport Employment Growth District (formerly referred to as the ‘Aerotropolis’) is a 1300-acre parcel roughly bounded by Fiddler’s Green, Garner Rd, Twenty Rd, Upper James, and the airport to the south. The area spans Wards 11 and 12 and was rezoned in 2015 from ‘agricultural’ use to 'employment’ use through a contentious Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing that resulted in this large urban boundary expansion. Warehouse development is the predominant trend for this area, with several proposals currently underway. These lands contain a significant number of wetlands, woodlands, and, of course, farmland. Understanding that we have already lost far too much natural heritage, this area was conceived as an eco-industrial park. However, applications received by the City are for warehouses far larger than envisioned and their construction would be fatal to the prime farmland and wetlands within it. You can watch my 2022 documentary, ‘Follow the Flow of Ancaster Creek’, about one such warehouse proposal currently awaiting an OLT hearing.
To service the AEGD, a Transportation Masterplan (TMP) for the area was developed and presented at a November Council meeting. I moved that the City conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the plan before Council approves it. Knowing that we already have a $3 billion infrastructure deficit, I felt it crucial to first determine the financial case for committing to a $500 Million road network. Although construction will largely be paid for by development charges and developers themselves, we do not have estimates of the lifecycle costs (i.e. long-term maintenance costs) which will fall solely to future taxpayers to fund. Decisions very much like this one are a key driver of why we have such a large deficit in 2023, so I don’t want us to keep making the same mistake.
Unfortunately, my motion was defeated at Council by a vote of 7-9. Read more in the Spectator here
Garner Road reconstruction
The first of several public meetings was held on Thursday, December 14, 2023, and the Ward 12 office wishes to thank residents for attending and for your patience while the meeting was relocated to the library at the last minute. Nancy from the Ward 12 office was present and shared with me the concerns that were raised. It is very important that everyone take a moment to provide feedback to the City through the "Provide your Comments" button on the project page at this link
Options for Garner Road range from "do nothing" to "add sidewalks/cycle path" to "widen the road". Residents can watch the video presentation, sign up for updates from the city, and email the city planner and consultant at the link above.
Some concerns that were raised include:
Some residents' homes are very close to Garner, in some cases as close as 6 feet away
Several heritage buildings front the road
Turtles and other wildlife already struggle to cross Garner
Risk of losing mature heritage trees currently lining the road if widened
Lack of safe pedestrian sidewalks/cycle lanes especially for Bishop Tonnos students.
Wetlands, biodiversity, habitat, and climate change are not meaningfully considered when roads are widened.
Widening could lead to increased speeds and reduced safety
Please make sure to provide your thoughts and share this comment portal with friends and neighbours. Your feedback will inform recommendations for the next Public Meeting in May.
The final results of the Mohawk Meadows streetlight survey have determined that most residents are IN FAVOUR of the addition of streetlights installed in Mohawk Meadows. After the second round of surveys had been hand delivered 67.48%. of area residents responded and of those, 65.06% were in favour of streetlights. Streetlights will be implemented in the time frames indicated on the map.
Municipal Protected Areas Project
Thank you to those of you who wrote to Council in support of Hamilton's participation in the Municipal Protected Areas Project (MPAP). Earlier in 2023, I worked with Ward 13 Councillor Alex Wilson to move that the City of Hamilton and Ontario Nature work together to assess Hamilton’s natural areas for a contribution towards the 30 by 30 target to protect 30% of Canada's land and waters by 2030. I am pleased to confirm that Council has ratified the partnership and now Hamilton will join other local landowners recognized for protecting near-urban nature. As part of the MPAP pilot project, Hamilton will also be seeking opportunities to strengthen environmental plans and policies, meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities to advance Indigenous-led conservation and the implementation of Hamilton’s Urban Indigenous Strategy, and promote initiatives and collaborations demonstrating Hamilton’s environmental leadership.
Southcote Road opening
Exciting news for Ancaster! Southcote Road is now officially open! While there are still some finishing details to work on, the roadway, new sidewalk, and multi-use pathway are safe and open for all users (cars, pedestrians, and cyclists). Residents will notice some very exciting additions including the new sidewalk on the east side, a multi-use pathway on the west side, and three pedestrian crossings. Those crossings and the new traffic lights at Stonehenge and Southcote will come online in the coming weeks. A vehicle turning lane will be painted in 2024 when the final layer of asphalt is added. The Southcote Road construction project was required to replace stormwater sewer infrastructure, reconstruct a water main, and reconstruct the road itself. Thank you for your patience while this work was completed!
Stormwater fee update
Thanks to feedback from agricultural constituents, I have requested that the city re-look at the current proposed structure, explore other models for agricultural properties, and report back to council in Q1 2024.
Background: earlier in 2023, I supported the framework for a new Stormwater fee that would remove stormwater funding from your water bill and transfer it to a separate fee that would be based on the impervious area of a property. In the current scenario, if you use municipal water for your vegetable garden, 50% of the rate you pay would be for the water and the other 50% would be funding our stormwater system. At the same time, a large store with an expansive parking lot in a retail plaza that generates an enormous amount of stormwater runoff is severely under-funding our stormwater infrastructure because their only contribution is the same as yours: based on the amount of municipal tap water they use (i.e. very little).
Within the new framework, such plazas will pay their fair share, however the current proposal would see agricultural properties disproportionately affected. Many agricultural operations also have large impervious surfaces but are surrounded by land that can absorb a lot of that water, so, in my opinion, should not be charged the same as a large retail plaza. The City's consultant proposed a 50% discount for agriculture, but that could still result in tens of thousands of dollars in stormwater fees which is excessive and not consistent with Council's priorities for this fee to be fair and justifiable.
There are costs associated with managing stormwater in rural areas and as such, a complete exemption is not reasonable; however,. Until January 8, 2024, Residential, Agricultural, Industrial, Commercial and Institutional property owners can provide feedback by filling out an updated survey at this link.
In summary, I absolutely recognize that farmland serves a vital role in infiltrating stormwater, and this must be taken into consideration prior to finalizing the fee structure for agricultural properties.
Tourism Growth Fund announced at Fieldcote
On Monday, December 4, I was thrilled to join Federal Minister Filomena Tassi and several members of the Friends of Fieldcote at Fieldcote Memorial Park & Museum in Ancaster for the announcement of a new federal funding source to help local businesses and non-profits put Hamilton on the tourism-destination map! Applications for funding through the Tourism Growth Program are now open until Feb 29. A wide variety of organizations and businesses will be eligible, including those that support economic, environmental, and cultural sustainability.
Learn more or attend a virtual information session at this link.