Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion says the city needs “big, big” money to address storm-water infrastructure problems, and people had better be ready to pay if they want to pave over their property.
“Noah built the ark before the flood,” she told colleagues, staff and dozens of residents whose properties were flooded in the catastrophic storm of July 8.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, McCallion said the city has to be better prepared for the next flood. And with climate change becoming a reality, the current infrastructure can no longer do the job.
“I think we’ve been a little bit behind on moving on a storm management fee,” she said during a break in the meeting.
McCallion wants a new levy or property tax surcharge that would make property owners pay extra depending on how much land is covered by impermeable material such as pavement or roofs.
Mississauga council has already signalled its support for the new tax and could pass a resolution before the end of the year.
Staff members are working out details for how the extra storm water charge would be calculated and applied.
“All municipalities are looking at it … it’s in the tax bill, whether you like it or not. You either charge those that are producing more of the storm water (that goes into the city system), or you charge everybody.”
Councillors spent three hours addressing residents at the meeting about the fallout from July’s storm, which hit eastern Mississauga hard. They said it’s about time the city’s outdated infrastructure gets paid for by those producing the biggest burden.
“How much water came off the Square One parking lot (on July 8)?” Councillor Jim Tovey asked rhetorically. He said the mall’s paved area shed about 10,500 cubic metres of water … as much as 40 hectares of (a residential) subdivision.
“So I’m glad our storm water charge is coming.”
Residents had a chance to tell council their own flood stories, recounting how badly their property was damaged and even, in one case, how many cars were written off at a single home: four.
Much of the $850 million in property damage caused by the storm was in Mississauga, staff told residents. More than 1,000 residents reported damage to the city.
Staff said the city’s current storm water management infrastructure cannot cope with climate change pressures, as summer storms are increasing in frequency and intensity.
“User-pay” is how McCallion described the system she wants to cover the cost of bolstering the system. “That’s how we pay for most of our services.”