Mayor Eisenberger gave a strong address during last night’s Council meeting in favour of increasing Hamilton’s water rates, saying that a failure to address the infrastructure deficit today – and cutting staff – will result in much higher costs later.
Eventually, after much debate, the 2017 water rates passed Council by a 13-3 vote.
Above is the full video of his address, and below is a transcript:
MAYOR EISENBERGER: The only thing that’s of control is the rhetoric that were trying to listen to many of these topics today.
So one of one of the issues that uh has been in our in our area of responsibility is our infrastructure.
Our infrastructure is a massive deficit in fact that’s the part that’s out of control and have we managed to get on top of that at any level?
I don’t think so, so just to go back to kind of the infrastructure deficit, through you Madame Chair to Dan McKinnon, I mean the overall infrastructure number is some three billion dollars, infrastructure deficit is that in fact?
I mean is it Council’s infrastructure deficit or is it um you know Ward Six or Ward Seven or just all the taxpayers that have this deficit that they have to do deal with at some point their future?
I know the answer but I want to hear from you.
DAN MCKINNON, General Manager of Public Works: Though you Madame Deputy Mayor, certainly with the water system and the sewer system it’s all of the users of that system that own the deficit of that on the deficit.
MAYOR: Thank you very much and so you know to suggestion that there this is just that there is that there’s an affordability issue when in fact and I’ll ask you this question, we have one of the lowest rates for water, water and sewer, in fact in the province and so we we had a we had a mapping out you know that mapping that was done.
Out of fourteen out of fifteen I believe but uh maybe Dan [McKinnon] you could confirm that one again?
So out of the major major municipalities we are either not the lowest but close to the lowest in terms of water rates,  is that correct?
DEPUTY MAYOR: Thank you, Mr. McKinnon
MCKINNON: Though you Madame Deputy Mayor, out of fifteen comparator municipalities ranging from Kitchener, Cambridge, Lincoln, Brantford, St. Catharine’s, Halton, Toronto and Peel, we are fourteenth out of fifteen, so we’re second from the bottom, so we’re second.
DEPUTY MAYOR: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
I’m not so sure that affordabiblity is the issue and I think the more pressing issue is in fact making sure that we have the best water and sewer system available, and we’re a long way from having that – we’re a long way from having that!
And so, at what point does do we take some responsibility for the infrastructure there we’re currently now seeing in deficit?
If it isn’t this year then when are we going to do that? and then you know what – Putting everything in the context of uh you know a budget, which is the sky isn’t falling just yet and you know we’re not at the end of the budget process, we’re at the beginning of the budget process and I think is rather unfair for those that are trying to do that was great soaring rhetoric.
So, lets be mindful of the fact tha we have a responsibility to look after our system and to be in denial about the infrastructure that we currently already not funding to the degree that we should, is, I think a very problematic issue so to have marginal increases as we’ve got done in the past that allows us to actually do the upgrades at our sewage treatment plant, that we’ve done significant benefit to, that has improved not only the water quality in the harbor but has improved the water quality of throughout all the water courses and it has improved water quality we deliver to our residents.
Those are important issues, I don’t know that we back away from those issues.
I was supportive initially of saying let’s look at the identified individuals that were being asked for through the budget process, but at the end of the day I know what’s gonna happen, they’re gonna be a group of people here that are gonna sit and say let’s cut.
Well, what will happen is our contract number’s will go up and we’ll pay more than what we would would’ve done had we maintained the staff that are out there doing the good work that’s out there in the broader community.
I’ve been down this road before as many of you have your as well, and so we we need to be very careful on the kind of rhetoric there are throwing out here in terms of “cut cut cut” ’cause when we “cut cut cut” we also “increase increase increase” in other areas.
So, I just want to be mindful that this is an important issue for our community, the rate is a reasonable number to actually translate over to the consumer.
The consumer is going to get great benefit and we’re still a long way from dealing with our infrastructure issues.
As it stands today and so the last question to our Director of Public Works:
If we were to get on top of our, and this is maybe a finance question, in fact, if we we’re to get on top of our infrastructure, you know let’s say in the next ten years, that three billion dollar deficit, what kind of tax increase would we have to levy today to actually accomplish that? and maintain that over the next ten years?
MIKE ZEGARAC, General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services: Though you Madame Deputy Mayor, to address our annual infrastructure deficit represents approximately 195 million dollars to address that would require a dedicated three percent levy increase each and every year for the next ten years.
MAYOR: Correct.
DEPUTY MAYOR: Thank you, three percent for the next ten years.
MAYOR: Right, and we’re nowhere near doing that.
So, that’s something that we’ve also backed away from on an annualized basis ’cause we’ve barely managed to stay inflationary, In fact we haven’t been inflationary for many many years.
We’ve been less than inflationary which means that we’re already catching up on some of these things, So, you know what, let’s be careful about the rhetoric and let’s be sure that do be honest and fari with our ratepayers and  our taxpayers’ out there that this is a system that needs to be maintained, I think that rather than having an annual increase of ten percent which we may have to do if we’re back away from it now, so at some point we got to play catch up, let’s stay incrimental on the water and sewer rate and let’s provide our customers out there and our citizens out there the best we can provide today with reasonable rates, and I think that’s exactly what we’re doing.
So I support the recommendation.