A ‘never ending’ issue with water mains

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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Higgins: Essential first step is long-term plan

If the city were to replace all cast iron water lines, it would take between 13 and 20 years at a cost of $8 million a year.

Mayor Deb Higgins is seen at the May 20, 2014 council meeting.

While those numbers are estimated, what is real is that the city has currently dedicated $2.2 million per year over the next five years for cast iron water mains in the capital budget. The city has 80 kilometers of cast iron water mains.

“It’s never ending,” said Mayor Deb Higgins. “For sure we’ll need to put more money into it.”

Part of additional funding for cast iron water mains came with council requesting an increased debt limit of $95 million from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board. The city will likely need to borrow money for the cast iron water mains with an estimated cost of $25 million.

“That’s just a portion of what we will need, but we need to be prepared. We need to do some long-term planning and having access to the funds that will be needed is part of that,” said Higgins.

“Whether we access a government program or whether we access a government grant, all of those projects require matching contributions and we’ve also had some discussion on local improvement projects so that would require some contributions from citizens and city. So we’re looking at all the options.”

When asked if that will involve a tax increase for additional funds, she said, “we’re going to have to wait and see.

“I know that other communities have had a tax increase that is dedicated to infrastructure. I know our city council has dedicated a number of funds from our increase to infrastructure,” said Higgins.

“We absolutely have to have some planning in place so that citizens can see the improvements so that they can see the work that’s being done and they have some solid idea of what any proposed increases will be used for. I think there has to be a very good explanation to the residents of the city before any of that takes place.”

A few months ago, the city awarded a tender for creating a utilities master plan, which is currently underway. That includes all underground piping. It will allow a “systematic way to start replacing cast iron and get the oldest for sure replaced in a timely fashion,” said Higgins. It is also a way to ensure labour and money is maximized.

Regarding short-term work, she added the engineering and public works departments are putting together this year’s projects. Major work will be one on Manitoba, High Street and Fairford Street for cast iron water main replacement.

“We’re in that bad spot where you know what’s underground has to be replaced so you don’t want to be repaving,” said Higgins, “but you don’t want to be wasting money because you know, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a street that’s been repaved or patched being dug up again.”

That being said, there will probably still be some streets previously patched that will need to be dug up.

“We can’t foresee emergencies. Wherever breaks occur, we will have to do repairs. So that will be ongoing,” said Higgins. “Not all of it has to be replaced right away. We’ll start working through that and lay out a long-term plan.”

Lisa Goudy can be reached at 306-691-1289 or follow her on Twitter @lisagoudy

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City streets need a cleaning: Fitzgerald

Doug Fitzgerald referred to himself as an “accidental tourist.”

After 30 years of truck driving across North America, and stopping in towns and cities for hours at a time, Fitzgerald said he’s never seen a city as “dirty and disgusting” as Moose Jaw.

He was in the Friendly City on Wednesday – one month after his last visit – and while he waited for his truck to be filled up, he headed downtown.

Fitzgerald, a Vancouver Island resident, was outside city hall in June and “shocked at the state of downtown,” headed up to see the city manager. Instead, he briefly chatted with three women, one of which was Mayor Deb Higgins, and told them how dirty the streets are.

“I’m sorry it doesn’t meet your standards,” were the words Fitzgerald alleged Higgins told him.

Higgins stopped by the Times-Herald newsroom later Wednesday and said the city’s cleaning crews are out cleaning the streets as proficiently as possible.

Fitzgerald says he hopes the next time he comes to Moose Jaw, that there is an added element of cleanliness on city streets.

– Liewicki

Organizations: Saskatchewan Municipal Board

Geographic location: Manitoba, High Street, Fairford Street

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