With a report in hand about what bridges to invest in, Chatham-Kent councillors now want to know if borrowing money can help save other structures in the future.
According to the staff report presented during Monday's meeting, 82 structures are recommended to receive $81 million in investment over the next decade.
A total of 25 bridges and culverts, totalling $21 million, are recommended for divestment, which means they would no longer be rehabilitated.
West Kent Coun. Brian King entered a successful motion for staff to bring back information for the 2014 budget concerning debentures on structures over $3 million.
"Those bridges are there for a reason," he said.
King stressed debentures wouldn't be used in perpetuity, but rather just to assist the municipality through a tough financial stretch, while taking advantage of low interest rates.
However, during the last budget, council rejected a proposal to use debentures to fund infrastructure costs.
The criteria for bridge divestment is based on minimal impact on residences, businesses and emergency services; low use; transportation redundancy; and minimal detours. Paved roads and major arteries will be among the priorities for funding.
Divestment doesn't necessarily mean the municipality will immediately shut down a structure, just that it will no longer receive funding leading up to its decommissioning, which will happen before it becomes unsafe. Public consultation will occur when that is the case.
General manager of infrastructure and engineering Thomas Kelly said provincial downloading has been a constant challenge.
He noted that Chatham-Kent received a $13-million payment for those particular bridges, but that the municipality in turn has spent more than $50 million on them.
"That number is rising continually," he said.
Wallaceburg Coun. Jeff Wesley believed there was no harm in seeking the debenture report.
"This motion commits us to nothing," he said. "I think we all need a refresher course."
East Kent Coun. Steve Pinsonneault said Monday's report was a dose of reality. He said there won't be much choice other than borrowing for large projects.
"Short of raising taxes through the roof, I don't know how you're going to do it," he said.
South Kent Coun. Art Stirling didn't support the motion, saying the bridge list should be used to show the province the magnitude of the problem.
"I think we should allow this report to open some doors," he said.
General manager of corporate services Gerry Wolting told council that borrowing for infrastructure is a "pick your poison" situation.
He said the cost of borrowing adds up, potentially squeezing out other rehabilitation projects in the process.
"It will compound your problem until you add the increased cost to your bridge budget," he said.
The following is the planned divestment list of bridges and culverts:
Crow Road over McFarlane Relief Drain
Dillon Road over Raleigh Plains Drain
Ouellette Road over Main Drain
Owen Road over Rankin Creek Drain
Mint Line over Baptiste Creek
Botting Road over East Otter Creek
Bowers Line over Government Drain 1
McDougall Line over Government Drain 1
Gleeson Line over Government Drain 1
Drake Road over Raleigh Plains Drain
Stonehouse Memorial Walk Bridge
Morris Line over Government Drain 1
Maple Leaf Cemetery South over McGregor Creek
Herman Line over Government Drain 2
Pollard Line over Government Drain 1
Tramway Road over Molly Creek
Maple Leaf Cemetery North over McGregor Creek
Vasik Road over Enos Smith Drain
Townline Road over Rivard Drain
Pollard Line over Government Drain 2 and 3
Dashwheel Road over Forbes Internal Drain
New Scotland Line over Ross Drain
Kennedy Road over Rankin Creek Drain
Brook Line over Miller and Leak Drain
Cedar Hedge Line over Sylvester Drain
No further divestment needed upon successful implementation of cost-reduction plan