Aging infrastructure will be a common term heard during the City of Penticton budget process.
The annual number crunching started on Monday with council looking at the 2016 capital budget and receiving a warning from city staff about the dire conditions of some infrastructure.
“To some extent the approach we have taken over the last few years has not been realistically sustainable. We have been deferring costs because we can,” said Colin Fischer, chief financial officer/treasurer. “A watermain hasn’t blown up through the road so we haven’t had to replace it, but we are just buying time really. We have done a lot of Band-Aiding.
“Eventually you can’t just keep doing those things either the services we give to the taxpayers of the city are going to start to suffer or we are going to start seeing some critical failures in infrastructure that we wont be properly prepared or properly funded for.”
Upgrades to technology are desperately needed, as staff said Penticton is 20 years behind on compared to other cities. Other projects also deemed important are Leir House renovations ($900,000 with $450,000 of grant funding), $1 million for the Carmi substation, over $1.6 million to replace watermains and upgrade sewers and $23,635 to upgrade electrical service to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre were items in the capital budget.
Staff also warned council the city reserve funds are sitting at $148,000, below the $500,000 that the city policy states should be there. More investigation into that policy is being conducted by the city finance team.
Some of the items listed in the capital budget are playing catch up from being deferred from years prior
“We can’t keep robbing the piggy bank. You are not going to have the money at a critical point where we need to replace our infrastructure,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
Despite that, the $16.2-million capital budget that received its’ first reading from council is balanced. A total of $6.4 million were slashed by staff before the projects deemed critical was handed over to council. While it was given its’ first pass, it can be debated down the road.
Mitch Moroziuk said all of the upgrades/replacements has been part of the 10-year capital budget starting with the watermains to ensure adequate fire protection, followed by the aging water infrastructure pipes that need to be replaced and this year it is starting the same process with the sanitary sewer.
Other topics touched on include the Adidas Sportsplex indoor soccer facility which needs a $300,000 repair because the heating system has failed.
The City of Penticton is encouraging residents, businesses and stakeholders to take part in the 2016 budget planning with questions, comments and suggestions related to the topics during the sessions. The operating budget will be addressed at a presentation on Dec. 16.
All budget meetings will be streamed live on the City of Penticton’s website www.penticton.ca/live-video.