The Soapbox: Turning the corner on infrastructure won't be easy

Justin Crann
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This city has its fair share of issues. It doesn’t take long to come to that realization, and few — if any — people who live here are denying it.

Justin Crann

When even the politicians and administrators in the city are admitting it has decaying infrastructure and inadequate snow removal, as several have as recently as yesterday, there’s reason to pause.

In both of the winters I’ve resided in Moose Jaw, the way the city handles snow has been a concern.

Last winter, it seemed as though it took days for city staff to get started following the first snowfall.

With heavy amounts of the white stuff bombarding us on what seemed like a daily basis (in reality, it was probably closer to every few), once the city fell slightly behind, it probably didn’t even stand a chance of keeping up.

This year, the problem appears to be something else entirely.

While the ruts are certainly an issue — I wouldn’t be caught dead arguing otherwise — one of the city’s other glaring problems is compounding the difficulties it has with moving snow.

That problem has to do with aging water infrastructure.

Earlier this week, the Times-Herald and other media outlets were told that upwards of six water main breaks across the city had become a setback for the city’s snow operations.

Water main replacement and snow operations, it seemed, drew from the same pool of staff and used some of the same equipment to get the task done.

It’s a problem that has been forecast for a long time.

At least since I arrived in October 2012, Coun. Brian Swanson — who was then running for re-election to city council — was speaking to the issue.

In the 2013 budget process, Swanson said that anything less than a heavy allocation of funds — to the tune of several million, across several areas — would amount to a “drop in the bucket” against the city’s heavy backlog of infrastructure repair and replacement.

Swanson wasn’t the only voice on council seeking infrastructure rehabilitation, but he stood out as the most vocal on the issue. And evidence so far seems to indicate that he wasn’t wrong.

In this year’s budget discussions, council seems to be indicating a desire to start allocating funds to deal with the problem.

Whether it was a strongly-worded report from the city’s director of engineering or simply a firm dose of reality that set them on the path, they appear to have found it.

Change won’t happen overnight.

The budget process is far from complete, and fixing a relatively large network of excessively old water mains — let alone maintaining roadways, clearing snow and managing any other unexpected problems that might crop up — isn’t going to be an easy task. Not everything the city tries is going to work, either.

But it’s easier to make the right calls with a clear head, and it’s tough to have a clear head when you’re under the gun.

Moose Javians should consider giving the benefit of the doubt to this city’s administration and council while it steps up to the plate.

Words of support and encouragement, rather than vitriol and personal attacks, might be the best approach.

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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Recent comments

  • Barb
    January 11, 2014 - 15:04

    Mr. Noble stepping up the other day and admitting the streets were atrocious and citing what some of the difficulties were that the city was encountering in clearing them was a welcome change. Up until that point, there were no explanations, no indications of any intentions to try to fix the problem. All we heard over and over was "well we just get priority 1 done and then it snows again, and then we have to start all over", which is garbage if you look at the fact that it really doesn't matter whether it is a day between snowfalls or two weeks, nothing every actually gets cleared. Up until now there has been only excuses coming from city administration, nothing else. It would be great if change is actually starting to happen, but you will have to forgive the citizens of MJ if they continue to doubt. The standard of "no standard" has been so solidly followed for years with no improvement that it will take some significant steps before the citizens believe anything is actually going to change besides just the words we hear.