Sunday, April 12, 2009

Emailing: Federal funding comes with its share of strings - Chatham Daily News - Ontario, CA

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

At this point in time, federal infrastructure funding is in pie-in-the-sky phase for Chatham-Kent, to the tune of more than $220 million. But the funding could bring with it substantial luggage.

By no means does council wish the Building Canada Fund (BCF) and the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) to turn on the cash taps for all projects put forward after Monday's council meeting. We couldn't afford it.

That's one caveat -- projects will require a municipal funding component possibly even to the point of matching the contributions of senior levels of government dollar for dollar.

While heavy outside funding for the variety of projects -- from a new recreation complex, to sewers to bridge and road upgrades to downtown revitalization -- is appreciated, too much "stimulus" would put too much pressure on local tax dollars.

The ISF cash is only available for projects that would begin in 2009 or 2010, and be completed by the end of March in 2011. That makes for a rather tight window for any large-scale projects. From planning to completion, the window is less than two years.

Preference will also be given to projects that likely wouldn't have been done had the federal government not ridden in and doled out the cash, thus providing the feds with no shortage of white knight stories and photo ops.

While the federal government hasn't released any defining criteria for the BCF's Major Infrastructure Component -- the section for which Chatham-Kent is eligible, general parameters indicate the money is intended for big-ticket projects, with a minimum project cost of upwards of $30 million.

So municipalities must go big or go it alone at a future date.

That's some luggage. But that said, erecting a recreation complex for as little as a third of the cost to local ratepayers is very attractive. Ditto for any other project on the municipal wish list.

Since this is federal money, Chatham-Kent will be lucky to get a hit on just one o


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