Infrastructure renewal a major item in Moose Jaw 2018 budget process

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The City of Moose Jaw is filled with historic buildings, but also aging and deteriorating infrastructure.

Infrastructure problems that have been plaguing the city for years, and they’ve become a focal point in the city’s 2018 budget process.

“We’ve been facing a $400 million deficit in infrastructure,” Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie said, noting that the city has also been challenged by provincial funding shortfalls.

“The Buffalo Pound Water Treatment (Plant) needs upgrades, we need the water lines from there to the city to be upgraded, we need our internal water lines done, we need roads paved, we need bridges fixed and upgraded.”

Mayor Tolmie added that infrastructure problems have been piling up for years.

“(It’s the) age of the infrastructure and not actually tackling it and putting it off,” he said. “That’s what has created this unfunded capital budget.”

One of the main infrastructure issues is 100-year-old cast iron water mains. In 2017, the city hit a record number of 116 water main breaks. In 2016, the city saw 86 water main breaks.

“We’ve seen the upward trend for the last number of years and we’re spending a lot of operational dollars on doing the repairs to them as they break,” the city’s director of engineering Josh Mickleborough said. He added that about $5.85 million is allocated towards water main upgrades in this year’s budget.

“The water mains are over 100 years old and we see high numbers of breaks on any given block, so that’s a lot of service disruption to the folks that are impacted when we do have the breaks,” Mickleborough said. “Based on the numbers we see out of other communities we’re significantly higher than other cities with respect to the number of breaks that we have to deal with.”

A recent citizen survey conducted by the city showed that residents want a tax reduction, but this year council is proposing a 4.05 per cent increase.

However, the survey showed that most residents did support the city spending more money on upgrading infrastructure.

“I’m encouraged, this has been put off for 30 years doing (these) infrastructure upgrades,” Mayor Tolmie said. “So people see that the money is being spent wisely. They’ve been going through disruption trying to get through their daily lives with traffic interruptions and things that are going on.”

Moose Jaw City Council is currently combing through budget proposals from administration. On Monday night, council started the budget process by reviewing requests from third parties. Full-day budget committee meetings will be held on Friday and Saturday and will be open to the public.

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