City takes action on infrastructure deficit

Vernon officials insist that the staggering $80  million infrastructure deficit can’t be ignored.

Council directed staff Monday to create a strategy for implementing the sustainable infrastructure investment plan.

“We are getting our house in order,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

“We will address issues many municipalities stick their heads in the sand about.”

The lifespan of all city assets — roads, underground pipes, sidewalks, buildings, etc. — is 47 years and the average remaining life is 51 per cent.

The $80 million deficit refers to infrastructure that is past its life expectancy, and if every asset had to be replaced, the price tag is $800 million.

About $17 million a year is needed for renewal, including $8.4 million for roads and $4.5 million for the sewer system.

Revenue generation is one method to deal with the situation, and the city already has an annual statutory tax increase of 1.9 per cent for infrastructure reserves.

However, the city is also looking at cost containment and that could involve changing engineering and road standards and possibly increasing crack sealing from $100,000 to $200,000 a year to extend the life of roads.

There could also be cost savings at the sewer treatment plant by encouraging Vernon residents to conserve water.

While water utility revenue is based on future growth in the community, Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe is concerned that conservation could negatively impact the utility’s bottom line.

“As people reduce water use, the rates go up so we can pay for water infrastructure,” she said.

Much of 2014 will be focused on refining figures and the status of assets for the sustainable infrastructure investment plan.

“This outlines the path forward and there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Mark Dowhaniuk, the city’s infrastructure engineer.


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