Infrastructure deficit priority for city

Much of the City of Vernon’s focus during 2014 will be on strategic asset management

It’s not cheap running a community.

Much of the City of Vernon’s focus during 2014 will be on strategic asset management, and specifically ensuring sidewalks, roads, sewer pipes and public buildings are maintained and replaced as required.

“Most communities have aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

“We have to finalize a sustainable program to manage them.”

It’s believed Vernon’s infrastructure deficit is about $80 million, and while some of that will be paid through taxes, other options are being considered.

“We can be more modest in the way we design roads and our sewer infrastructure,” said Sawatzky.

“If we bring a road down in size by one-third, that reduces maintenance costs.”

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.

Consultant Michael Trickey recently told council there is a need to look at the specific function of a road and to not over-design.

“How many lanes do there have to be? How many shoulders? Does there have to be a bike path?” he said, adding that maintenance factors to consider are landscaping, snow storage and street lighting.

Besides its own infrastructure, the city will be focused on Greater Vernon’s master water plan. Upgrading the water utility could cost $100 million.

Another priority for Vernon council will be trying to bolster the economy.

However, Sawatzky isn’t convinced Vernon is destined to become the centre of large manufacturers and it must consider why people come here.

“Our strengths are an attractive climate, our lifestyle and arts and culture,” he said.

“We have to make ourselves as attractive as we can to people who can live where they want such as independent small businesspeople.”

The new year will also see the city become responsible for most parks in Vernon. Previously, they had been under the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“There should be a net savings for city taxpayers,” said Sawatzky.

“With one less layer of administration, we can be more responsive to (public) needs.”

In terms of governance, a citizens’ group has asked the four Greater Vernon jurisdictions to pursue a study looking into the feasibility of amalgamation.

Sawatzky won’t speculate on whether his council will support the concept.

“Personally, I believe it’s worthwhile asking the provincial government for a study but I am only one voice on council,” he said.

“Without information, citizens can’t make an informed vote if it comes to that.”

But Sawatzky points out that Vernon cannot go it alone when it comes to amalgamation.

“There can only be a study funded by the province if there are willing partners,” he said of Coldstream and Areas B and C.

One question that Sawatzky will likely be asked frequently during 2014 is whether he will seek a second term in office during November’s election.

“My plan is to discuss it with my family and make a decision as the year moves on,” he said, adding that he will consider a number of factors.

“You have to consider age, health and family. It’s a very time consuming position. But it’s very rewarding to see the co-operative effort to build a community and to be part of it.

 

Just Posted

Vernon author shorlisted in B.C. historical writing competition

The BC Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing will be awarded together with $2,500 to the author whose book makes the most significant contribution to the historical literature of British Columbia.

Lumby fire destroys five vehicles

Auto wrecker blaze believed to be accidental

New restaurant on The Rise in Vernon

Multi-million dollar project plans for a 30,000 square foot multi-amenity building with the restaurant and bar

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Vernon council will hold town-hall on downtown issues

Notice of motion on meeting put forward by councillor wins near unanimous approval

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

Most Read