The State of the Town
Hampstead is in excellent shape but there is a lot more that we can do. I am very proud of the fact that, with the help of three councils and an excellent staff, we have accomplished an awful lot since we demerged in 2006. Today, our debt has dropped by about 50% since its peak several years ago. Our infrastructure has gone from what many residents called a third world country in 2006 to possibly the best on the island. Water main breaks, leading to large damage claims from residents, have been virtually eliminated and this year we have no priority water mains to reline or replace. Our sewers are not causing flooding but we will be repairing several this summer. Aside from MacDonald and Ellerdale, we have no roads in terrible condition. Nevertheless, a number of the less good roads will be redone this summer. I have finally gotten Montreal to agree to share the costs of redoing MacDonald. Planning and project preparation are happening in the coming months. Montreal has also responded to my previous Mayor’s message on the problem with Ellerdale and we expect action this year or in 2018. Sidewalks are slowly improving as we spend a few hundred thousand on them each year. We have also replaced much of our old rolling stock (trucks, snow blowers, and so on) to substantially reduce maintenance costs and to improve service.
As far as taxes go, I think most residents know that after a decade of below inflation local tax increases, this will continue for at least the next four years should I be re-elected. That is my number one promise.
The challenges ahead
Over the past five years many baby boomers have been moving out of Hampstead and young families have moved in. I expect this trend to continue for probably at least another decade. So we need to address the needs of this new demographic reality. We need more programs for young families and, while some have been added already, much more needs to be done.
Our infrastructure is more than just water mains, sewers, roads and sidewalks. It is also our aging buildings. Town Hall is almost 100 years old and maintenance and repair costs are increasing steadily. It was never designed to handle today’s level of municipal services nor to be energy efficient or to be environmentally friendly. Our community centre dates from the 60’s and is a patchwork of successive additions. It lacks the space for many community activities that a town like Hampstead should have.
How to deal with the above challenges while keeping local tax increases below inflation will not be easy but I think there may be solutions and significant grant opportunities that will help. As I write this, council is considering ways to deal with these challenges and I hope to have news to share within a month or two.
Another key issue is improving our online capabilities so that residents can get parking permits, new garbage bins, dog licenses, etc. online. This will both save residents time and staff time as well. We are currently in Beta testing and hope to roll out these new capabilities within the next month or two.
As you can see, we have made a lot of progress and your council and I are confident that we can keep moving forward as we address the new challenges and opportunities.
If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything else related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at WSteinberg@Hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.
Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead