The Choices that we make in Hampstead

2008-11-01

It has been said that government is about making choices. I would like to share with you some of the major choices that this Council has made and the reasoning behind those choices.

Repairing our Infrastructure

When we got our town back after four years of serious neglect due to having been merged with Montreal, our roads were in terrible shape and there were serious problems with our underground infrastructure (water mains and sewers) – from decades of neglect. We decided to make restoring our infrastructure our top priority. To keep the long term cost down, we were the only town that took the Quebec government’s interest free loan. The loan was offered to reduce Agglomeration taxes but we chose to raise local taxes by the same amount so that our tax payers would pay no more overall in taxes. Instead, we effectively turned the loan into one that Hampstead could use to fix our infrastructure. One of the towns that decided not to take the interest-free loan has been able to work on 3% of their roads each year so about 12% will be restored by the end of the four year mandate. In contrast, we will have fixed close to 50% of our roads in the same period.

We also thoroughly cleaned a good portion of our water mains and sewers. That was a cost effective and fast way to reduce water main breaks and sewer back ups. Starting this year and accelerating next year, due to the federal excise tax grant, we will be fixing most of the major problems in our sewers and water mains.

Hampstead will save money

We are and will continue to realize real saving from all this work. Having repaved our worst streets, we have reduced pothole repairs by over 50% which has resulted in significant savings. As well, this work has reduced damage to residents’ cars caused by driving over poor quality road surfaces. The work on the water mains and sewers will reduce claims for flooding and substantial overtime when crews have to come in to fix breaks. Of course, there is also a reduction in the anguish of residents who used to have basements flooded and an increase in the pleasure of residents as they drive, bike and jog on smooth streets.

Recreation Facilities

In 2009, we will lower pool fees for residents. In addition, we introduced daily tennis passes for residents two years ago because we want more residents to use our facilities. We invested in a new lighting system for the tennis courts. We also built one of the finest dog runs on the island of Montreal and it isn’t costing us a penny as the annual fees from dog licenses more than cover the debt service and annual maintenance costs. We have also safety certified all nine of our parks and made significant improvements to five of them. The costs for these initiatives have been modest and well worth it. We are a community of communities and we want to have something for everyone.

Preserving our Architectural Heritage

We tightened our building by-laws so people could not build excessively large homes on small lots. Our critics said that “housing values will go down.” As we all know now, housing values rose dramatically and today we have the second most expensive homes on the island, after Westmount. Previously we were behind Westmount and the Town of Mount Royal.

Traffic Safety for Children and Pedestrians

We have chosen to invest in more traffic calming measures than any past administration because the safety of our children and pedestrians is of paramount importance to us. The redesigned Finchley Circle, more low profile speed humps, raised crosswalks, chicanes, and planters are just some of the things that we have introduced to the town. Some drivers may complain but we trust that most residents understand the need for these measures.

Communications

We have introduced the newsletter that you are reading, as well as regular web flashes and eHampstead e-mails so that residents know what is happening on a continual basis. We believe you want to know and the ever increasing registrations on eHampstead seem to bear this out.

Fiscal Responsibility

We are aware that taxes are high in Hampstead because we have very few high rises and no commercial properties. That is a choice that we made when we chose to live in Hampstead but we have tried very hard to live within our means and so overall tax increases have gone down every year under this administration. That, too, is a choice that we have made. In making our choices, this council has tried to make the ones that best reflect the values of our residents.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead