The Town of Hay River has itemized major projects for completion over the next decade in a draft of the municipality’s 10-year capital plan.
At the same time, there is concern about where the money will come from to pay for them. Like most NWT communities, Hay River considers itself significantly underfunded by the territorial government and expects to rely on third-party grants and funding to complete many initiatives.
Addressing a council meeting on Monday night, town finance director Sam Mugford set out the overview of planned expenditures for each town department until 2032.
Major projects include upgrading Hay River’s solid waste facility by 2027 or 2028, getting a new town hall in 2023 or 2024, and improving the town’s water treatment facility in the period between 2024 and 2026, though those timelines could change.
Modernizing the town’s water treatment plant has long been identified as a necessity and could cost up to $15 million. Earlier this year, the federal government contributed $225,000 for a study to be conducted in anticipation of that work.
Among other major projects are the creation of new residential areas, needed to cope with an expected population boom, and road improvements.
“As we move further into the future the timing, the certainty, and the cost associated with these projects will vary,” Mugford said.
“Just because you see something on this document, it does not guarantee it’s going to happen.”
The plan also shows which funding pots are available to help bankroll the projects, alongside the expected reserves – the surplus that moves forward to be used on future projects – the town will have.
Hay River’s senior administrative officer, Glenn Smith, said staff had tried to identify projects considered “a need” because money is hard to find.
“Really it points to the picture of saying … we continue to be underfunded by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs,” Smith said. The department has acknowledged as much since a 2014 study on the subject and has attempted to gradually close that funding gap over time, though much of it remains.
“There’s a higher reliance on finding those contribution dollars, those third-party dollars,” said Smith. “Without them we simply cannot proceed with many projects.”
Each year, municipal governments must approve operating and capital budgets that firm up financial commitments for projects. In Hay River’s case, that process will next take place later in December.
Smith said if major projects in the capital plan are actually completed in the anticipated 10-year timeframe, the town will be “in a very good position for the replacement of its key infrastructure.”
“I’m really happy with the plan, I think we can execute it – it’s going to take work and it’s going to take partnership with the government, but it’s going to get us into the position we want to be in,” he said.
Correction: October 6, 2021 – 14:00 MT. This article initially stated the federal government had contributed $550,000 toward a study related to Hay River’s water treatment plant. In fact, the federal contribution is $225,000. Our report has been amended accordingly.