Kimberley’s infrastructure issues

Cranbrook isn't the only city with infrastructure problems

As reported in the Bulletin last week, Cranbrook has a huge problem with aging, failing infrastructure. And unfortunately, so does Kimberley. So does almost every municipality in the province and country.

The Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, issued in September of 2012, says that most infrastructure (waste water systems, drinking water systems and municipal roads) will require ever increasing investment as it ages.

“A mixed picture emerges for wastewater infrastructure, with about 40 per cent of wastewater plants, pumping stations and storage tanks in “fair” to “very poor” condition, and 30.1 per cent of pipes in “fair” to “very poor” condition,” the report says. “The replacement cost for the wastewater infrastructure in “fair” to “very poor” condition is $39 billion, or $3,136 per Canadian household.

According to a City report prepared by Manager of Operations Mike Fox, Kimberley has 118 kilometres of water mains with 90 per cent of them needing replacement.

Kimberley also has 78 km of sewer mains and 65 km of storm mains.

One kilometre of water main costs approximately $575,000 to $600,000 to replace.

In 2012, the City replaced .597 km of water main and .128 km of sewer main.

The report says that based on a replacement rate of .357 km a year, it would take 331 years to replace them all.

Obviously more capital spending on infrastructure is required, but costs are high and municipal taxpayers won’t tolerate too many more tax increases. And, with deficits running higher each year, the provincial and federal governments are less likely to pay.

The newly formed BC Mayors Caucus was formed to deal with these issues, says Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae. The Caucus wants a different funding model, rather than relying on grants they may or may not get.

“Ideally, municipalities don’t want the grant system anymore, where you have to beg for funding for each project,” McRae said. “We would much rather have a stable pot of funding that each community can access each year.”

If a community could access that set amount of money each year, they could budget more easily and prioritize projects knowing exactly how much funding they had, McRae says.

However, changing the funding formula will take time, if it happens at all. While the Mayors Caucus lobbies, municipalities have to act on failing infrastructure now.

Fox’s report advises that municipalities start now to create and implement a plan to fund and replace assets immediately, as well as managing assets to extend their life.

Kimberley also has roads and bridges to maintain, but McRae says the real infrastructure problems are the underground water and sewer systems.