Weekend Event Puts Infrastructure Upgrades in Spotlight
Prince George, B.C.-The water line breaks in Prince George on the weekend has underscored the issues with the aging infrastructure in the City.
On Saturday, numerous properties on the east side of the Hart Highway between Kenworth Road and Shady Lane, were surrounded by water when there was a problem with a fire hydrant. Later that same day, crews responded to 15th and Hemlock to deal with another water main issue.
Upgrading of water and sewer lines is a priority for the City says Mayor Lyn Hall, “Crews are working diligently to get caught up on this. We know the areas where we have work to be done. There is some back log there and we will get to it. Things are getting better weather wise, so I know crews will be out.”
Although the Public Works Department has a plan for upgrades that need to be done, in conjunction with road rehabilitation projects, the Mayor says incidents like the Hart break on the weekend are bound to happen “These are unintended things that occur, and we just have to deal with them.”
One of the workers at the scene on the weekend noted that part of the problem this winter has been the lower than normal snowfall ” We need snow” says Mayor Lyn Hall “As much as we like the fact that we don’t have as much snow as we used to and we’re saving dollars in our snow clearing budget, we need it. We need it for water reservoirs, we need it for rivers, we need it for the water table. He’s ( worker) absolutely right, snow provides insulation for our below ground infrastructure.” The Mayor says the weather swings from minus 30 to plus 11, also put pressure on the system “Not only does it raise havoc with the roads, and you see potholes and heaving, it impacts our below ground infrastructure.”
Still, there’s lots of work to do “We’ve been talking about this as a Council for the last year or more” says Mayor Hall who says more discussion on the issue is just around the corner “You’re going to see it in the next couple of weeks when Council discusses the Four Seasons pool and Fire Hall number one, and below ground infrastructure as well.”
The good news is, the water and sewer line upgrades are self funding. Both utilities have enough in reserve to pay for the necessary repairs and upgrades as needed. That’s an important thing to know says Mayor Hall, especially when the City will soon be looking at two major infrastructure projects that will cost an estimated $50 million dollars. “Really, there is no competition for funding dollars. We are fully funded on the water- sewer side, and so it doesn’t compete with what we’re putting out there for Fire Hall 1 and the Four Seasons.”
The replacement of the Fire Hall and the Four Seasons poll would need to be funded by debt. Both will need approval from the electorate because of the length of the term of the loan. Rather than go the route of an alternate approval process (which requires 10% of the eligible electorate to petition against the borrowing) Council seems to be leaning towards a referendum.