Infrastructure moves out of the public eye
Monday, September 28, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
What ever happened to our infrastructure deficit?
A year ago we were mired in a different election campaign … the fight for city hall.
The previous council had, for some time, been inundated with dire warnings about the sorry state of the city’s water and sewer pipes, buildings, and streets. Then-councillor Cameron Stolz was leading the charge and pegged it is as one of the most important issues facing the city, if not the most important issue.
The electorate tossed Stolz out, so we know how much it thought of his making the infrastructure deficit his main election plank. However, it is a real issue and it resonated with the candidates, most of whom made it part of their campaign as well.
Now, a year later and we don’t hear anything out of city hall about the sorry state of city’s infrastructure. Has it all been fixed? Hardly.
However, council has managed to move the discussion out of the public eye. We’ve been focused on bike lanes and park names. It’s understandable for council to move the discussion away from the sorry state of the city’s infrastructure because there is no easy solution. It’s simple, but not easy … it just takes money, lots of it. And that usually means cutting services and/or increasing taxes, which, as Stolz can testify to, the electorate isn’t keen on doing.
However, council is doing just that.
It is looking at borrowing close to $6 million to replace some of the city’s mobile equipment. Not technically infrastructure, but the sorry state of the city’s snow removal equipment became evident in the Great Snow Removal Debacle of a couple of years ago. That would be mobile equipment.
The upshot of all this? The loan will result in a $13.72/year tax increase for the average homeowner in Prince George, for the next 10 years.
Because the city has to borrow, it is going through an alternative approval process. It will be interesting to see if it’s an issue during Talktober, the city’s public input process next month.
Don’t see taxes headed south just yet.
Then there is the move to bring economic development in-house and close down Initiatives Prince George. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an idea whose time had definitely come. Mayor Lyn Hall has said the move will save the city $500,000 per year.
However, that was when the city was looking at creating a three-person economic development department under Ian Wells, the city’s general manager of planning and development. The city has hired IPG alum Melissa Barcelllos as the manager of economic development and has three more economic development positions posted … all paying more than $60,000 per year.
In addition, according to a report from Hall in tonight’s council agenda, they will be looking to hire a marketing person as well.
That will bring to five the number of people in the city’s new economic development department. IPG had a staff of six people.
Seems to me that we’re already eating into that $500,000 in savings.
And, once again, taxes aren’t heading south.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org