The need to pump significant dollars into aging infrastructure is constantly on the radar and it will dominate discussions at Vernon city hall throughout 2014.
“We have to finalize a sustainable program to manage them,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.
In Vernon, the deficit amounts to about $80 million to replace assets that are past their life expectancy, whether it is roads, sidewalks, sewer lines or public buildings. About $17 million a year is needed for renewal.
City council took a positive step in 2013 by designating a 1.9 per cent tax increase towards infrastructure only, but that won’t generate enough funds, and residents should expect further tax hikes as the years go by.
But addressing the deficit isn’t all about money.
The city is currently looking at how roads are designed.
“How many lanes do there have to be? How many shoulders? Does there have to be a bike path?” said consultant Michael Trickey, adding that long-term maintenance implications to consider include landscaping and snow storage.
The bottom line is that public expectations may have to change. Just because a road was a certain width before or new development always led to sidewalk installation doesn’t mean that may occur in the future to minimize maintenance costs.
On top of this, the Interior Health Authority continues to demand upgrades to the regional water system and that could cost a staggering $100 million.
Hopefully senior levels of government will step up to the plate with grants for all forms of infrastructure, but the reality is that local taxpayers will be on the hook for the bulk of the cost.
It’s the price that must be paid for operating a community.