• John Jantak

St. Lazare asked to rein in spending


St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo listens to citizen’s questions after adopting its 2016 budget that will see property taxes increase 4.08 per cent for properties connected to the town’s sewage system and 4.86 for properties not connected to the sewage system.

With residential property taxes in St. Lazare set to increase by an average of 4.1 per cent, some residents are calling on town council to curb its spending after its 2016 budget was unanimously adopted during a special council meeting on Tuesday, December 15.

For homeowners, the 4.08 per cent hike for properties connected to the town’s sewage system and 4.86 increase for properties not connected to the sewage system, will raise property taxes by about $120 based on a house evaluated at $370,000, roughly the same increase as in 2015, said Mayor Robert Grimaudo.

Resident Paola Irrera, who has lived in St. Lazare for the past five years, told council that while she understands that certain aspects of the town’s infrastructure need upgrading, she feels the town should cut back on the scale of its proposed new town hall which is tentatively slated to cost $10 million.

Irrera added that while the town is proceeding with project because it fell 17 signatures short of reaching the required 500 that could have resulted in a referendum to determine whether the project should go ahead, she is willing to collect signatures on a separate petition to show council that there is significant opposition to the new town hall.

“A lot of people were upset because they weren’t informed beforehand,” said Irrera. “You’re missing 17 signatures. I can go door-to-door and ask people that didn’t sign the registry if they would want to. There are a lot of people that feel we don’t need to spend that $10 million right now.”

Grimaudo dismissed Irrera’s proposal saying that even if more than 500 signatures were collected on a petition and presented to council, it would not supersede the results of official legally binding registry signing and have no bearing on the project.

“She can go ahead with a petition,” said Grimaudo. “It’s a democracy. A petition is easy. You’re going to go and get the signatures from people who don’t want the project. The people that come here and ask these types of questions, and they’re legitimate questions, they usually have a beef.”

Despite the cost and scope of the town hall project, Grimaudo insists it’s a necessity. While there has been vocal opposition at recent council meetings, he said many residents support the town’s proposal, even though it could result in the mayor and six councillors not being re-elected in the next municipal election in 2017.

“The reality is we have a lot of people sending us emails and comments that we need to go forward,” Grimaudo added. “We have to stop looking backwards in St. Lazare. We have to look forward. And this is what this council does; this council is always looking forward. This is not the type of council this is making decisions and looking to get re-elected in 2017.

“Our council is here to make the hard decisions and sometimes they’re decisions that might lose you an election,” Grimaudo added. “But they’re the hard decisions to make. Nobody sitting behind this table is making decisions saying, ‘I want to be re-elected.’ They’re making the decisions they’re making because it’s good for the population of St. Lazare. They have the people’s needs in mind first. I don’t have a self-centred council.”

The town’s continuing focus on upgrading its aging infrastructure was also highlighted in its triennial program for 2016, 2017 and 2018, with one major project aimed at bringing water and sewage services to Duhamel, Frontenac and Radisson Streets near Boulevard Cité-des-Jeunes and Chemin Ste. Angélique.

The town will also spend $800,000 over the next two years to repair the well in Saddlebrook and another major project will couple all the individual wells throughout the town to the main aquifer on Ste. Angélique to ensure there is uninterrupted flow of water to all districts.

“If something was to happen in Le Chanterelle for instance, we can close one valve and open another valve and people will have water again,” said Grimaudo.

Overall, Grimaudo said he was proud of the town’s 2016 budget. “It’s a good budget,” he said. “It’s based on infrastructure and it’s been like that since 2012. Every budget that I’ve been involved is infrastructure-based.

“I said it tonight that I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now and have somebody say, ‘They should have fixed it back then’. Everything will get fixed and that’s why again, most of the money in this year’s budget is infrastructure based.”

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