Brandon has been in the dark about how much cash it will get from the federal government for its most pressing projects and when the money will start flowing.
"I’m quite surprised that there’s been no information about it," said Mayor Shari Decter Hirst. "We can’t afford to miss construction season.
"We’re getting very, very close to that deadline."
Brandon — and every other municipality in Canada — is awaiting the details around the Building Canada Fund, a
10-year, multi-billion-dollar fund aimed at hard infrastructure such as roads, bridges and water systems.
The financial fate of those projects will likely become more clear once the federal government unveils what is expected to be a stay-the-course budget tomorrow.
This city’s big-ticket needs include upgrades to the Brandon Municipal Airport, widening of the Daly Overpass on 18th Street, and possible work on the politically polarizing Sportsplex.
The city has budgeted $2.2 million for the airport facelift in 2015, although Decter Hirst said she hopes the federal government will take on some of the heavy lifting to bring the airport’s logistics and design into the 21st century.
The Daly Overpass, the now-50-year-old, three-lane bridge that connects the city’s south and north sides, is also is dire need of redevelopment and cash from the federal government will be the last piece of the funding puzzle for the bridge after the provincial government earmarked money for it in its November throne speech.
The cost of the bridgework is still up in the air since engineers have yet to come in and draw up plans.
The aging Sportsplex is in much need of infrastructure upgrades that include a new mechanical system, pool liner and waterslide.
Each of the three projects — the airport, the bridge and the rec centre — have been named to cater to whatever focus the government may have for the fund — whether it be economic development, hard infrastructure, or recreation.
"We’re trying to keep as many options open as possible," Decter Hirst said.
Certainly the area’s infrastructure needs are a high priority for Brandon-Souris Progressive Conservative MP Larry Maguire, who before his swearing-in, spoke at length about the areas needs in an interview with the Sun.
Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said hard infrastructure is expected to be a focus.
"Everything that I’m hearing from the federal government is that the new Building Canada Fund is going to concentrate on hardcore infrastructure," he said.
Water, bridges, roads and sewers.
"That’s the theme we’re hearing," Dobrowolski said.
The infrastructure fund, established in 2007, has had a funding model wherein each level of government has to commit cash to projects and Dobrowolski said that isn’t likely to change.
"We’re just waiting to see what dollars are coming to Manitoba and what the program is actually going to look like."
Along with affordable housing, Dobrowolski said many Manitoba municipalities are in dire need of cash for water systems.
"There are 88 boil water advisories in the province of Manitoba," he said. "So we’re hoping there is going to be some money for that."
Also, as Decter Hirst pointed out, the infrastructure cash is coming from a 10-year fund, so it’s entirely possible the area’s projects are in for a long wait before getting funded.
Meanwhile, Decter Hirst said she’s also awaiting any more details around Canada’s rail safety after 2013 proved to a harrowing year on the nations tracks.
And the mayor said she’ll also keep an eye on the budget for those government departments which have lost Brandon offices — including veterans affairs — to "see where their priorities are."
The budget is also expected include more cuts as the Conservative government soldiers on to balance the budget in 2015.