Federal gas tax saves the day for Holyrood

By Mark Squibb
September 15, 2023

Holyrood council voted last month to use a large chunk of the Towns’ gas tax allocation to pave several roads and to purchase new pumps to replace failing pumps in the municipal water system.

The gas tax is collected by Ottawa, which kicks back a portion of the funds to the provinces to share among their respective municipalities for infrastructure projects. In Newfoundland, towns must apply to the province describing the projects they want to see funded.

In this particular application, Holyrood applied to the Gas Tax Authority to complete local road upgrades to the tune of $208,004, HST included, to be paid to English Paving, the successful bidder on the tender. Roads to be paved include sections of Sir Albert Walsh Road, Bog Lane, The Valley, Timmons Lane, sections of Country Path, and the Brynes Road/Route 60 intersection.

“This is great news for the town,” said Mayor Gary Goobie. “And it’s not money coming out of our budget. It’s gas tax money. “

Goobie said he hopes that next year the Town will once again be able to use Gas Tax funds to pave more roads.

Council also voted to submit an application to the Gas Tax Authority to purchase three pumps for the sewerage system in Holyrood at a total cost of $10,168. The pumps will be supplied by Xylem, the successful bidder.

Councillor Sadie King explained that each system has two pumps that enable it to operate efficiently.

“Several of the pumps malfunctioned and the system has been compromised,” said King. “This purchase will enable the Town to replace the pumps and ensure all systems have capacity to properly address waste disposal without disruption.”

Councillor Steve Windsor noted that it would be a good idea to have extra pumps on hand.

“If we ever got into a situation where we couldn’t get that pump, and the delivery time was long, and there was none available in St. John’s … It’s a concern,” said Windsor. “I don’t like the idea of us being in a vulnerable position for water supply or wastewater treatment.”

He said that while he supported the motion, the Town needs to be self sufficient and “ready-to-respond,” in the future.

Mayor Goobie agreed.

“It’s good to have those very important parts on the shelf ready to go, because you can run into significant delays, and it could be weeks,” said the mayor. “Pumps are something that could be vulnerable to breakdowns. And if you have those parts on the shelf ready to go you can have the problems fixed in a matter of hours, in some cases, or a few days, versus a week.”

Councillor Bruce King then floated the idea of an emergency infrastructure fund, an idea that has been discussed at council in the past.

“2024 is the perfect time for us to put that into motion,” said King. “We need to be prepared. And it’s great to be able to rely on the gas tax for these things, but there may come a time when we may have to rely on our own funding. And I think in 2024 we should start this process of putting so much money away with each budget. And it may not be used in 2024, it may not be used while we’re still around, but five or 10 years down the road if something catastrophic happens, and God forbid it ever happens, people can look back and say the people on council in 2023 and 2024 made a very wise decision to do something.”

Councillor King added that if you’re left with only one pump operating that pump is under extra strain.

Later in the meeting, Deputy Mayor Michele Woodford noted that the Town had $408,000 available in gas tax money this year.

“And we spent most of that in the motions tonight,” said Woodford. “It’s excellent that we do have that gas tax to fall back on in these emergency situations, because if not we would be going into our budget, or other means, to try and find those pumps that we desperately need.”

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