Investing in our infrastructure while staying fiscally responsible


As many of you know, we have kept local tax increases well below inflation for the past four years (less than 1% this year). Further, it is our goal to keep local tax increases at or below inflation going forward, barring any serious surprises. This has been accomplished WITHOUT increases in borrowing. In fact, our long-term debt has been dropping as we steadily pay it off. Moreover, our accumulated surplus has climbed to a level where we have taken some of it for infrastructure improvements that would otherwise have been financed through borrowing.

While living within our means, we have made huge strides in our efforts to fix the very poor infrastructure which we inherited from the merger years. There is a connection between infrastructure work and keeping tax increases at comfortable levels. For example, the over $3 million spent on water main rehabilitation (two thirds financed by grants) has dramatically reduced payouts for claims when basements flood during water mains breaks. Repaving 40% of our roads has contributed to making Hampstead one of the most desirable communities in which to live. This resulted in record revenue last year (about $1.3 million) from transfer duties (Welcome Tax), as people moved into town and paid very high prices for their homes. Property values have climbed faster in Hampstead than in either Westmount or TMR. This reflects the increasing attractiveness of our town to those looking for a new home.

Here is a brief update on what we have done and are planning to do over the next two years to keep improving our infrastructure.

Roads and Sidewalks
As noted above, 40% of our roads have been repaved since the demerger. Some of the work was major, including Fleet from Finchley to Queen Mary. Other work was done by our own paving crew. We have just completed an updated study of the condition of our roads and future priorities will be based on the study. Streets with heavy traffic such as Fleet, Queen Mary and Ellerdale will need to be redone by outside contractors and, once completed, will have a useful life of at least 20 years. Other streets may be done in-house or by outside contractors. Major work is expected in 2012 and 2013, with the completion of the repaving of Fleet being our top priority.

This year, we have also invested $500,000 to replace the worst sections of sidewalk. Other sections were reconstructed previously, but there is no question that more work needs to be done. We will be tackling this challenge over the coming years.

Water Mains and Sewers
Over 20% of our water mains have been rehabilitated. This represents over 80% of those identified as needing work in the short and medium term. Another $1 million (almost all grant money) will be spent over the next 12 months on the remaining water mains most in need of repair. One problem that we discovered recently is that fluctuations in water pressure caused by breaks in Montreal lead to weak spots rupturing in other towns. This was demonstrated recently when a major break occurred on the Decarie service road. While we were not as hard hit as other suburbs in the area, the problem did lead to several breaks in Hampstead. We are currently looking into installing water pressure regulators on all mains from Montreal that enter Hampstead.

Our sewers are in relatively good shape and most are cleaned annually. Flooding due to sewer problems is very unlikely, but I take this opportunity to remind you to make sure you have a sewer back-up valve and ensure that it is cleaned annually, as required in our municipal by-laws. Furthermore, your insurance company may not cover damages if you do not have a properly functioning back-up valve.

Beautification of our Green Spaces
Infrastructure also includes our parks and green spaces. This year we have done major work on the Fleet median. Several new planting zones were added. Many new trees were planted along with numerous perennials. Some annuals will also be added for extra color each spring and we will be planting early blooming flowers this fall. To keep costs down, we have purchased smaller plants but Mother Nature and our Public Works team will ensure that the median will be increasingly attractive over time. We have also planted 19 trees in various other green spaces around town.

As always, it remains our goal to make Hampstead the most attractive and liveable town on the island.


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead