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Letter: Potholes, not pots of gold, at the end of the rainbow in Didsbury

opinion

When I moved to Didsbury, I was informed copper wire was invented here – figuratively the ability to take a copper penny and stretch its buying power to near infinity.

This philosophy of stretching the "copper penny" on municipal infrastructure has resulted in continuance of service levels well beyond generally accepted "best before dates." 

The frugality of the community is to be admired and respected.  

However, it does not eliminate the inevitable – there comes a time when it is no longer possible, prudent, financially responsible, or in the best interests of the future of the community to stretch the useful life of municipal infrastructure without further significant capital investment. 

When our eyes can no longer deceive us, such as observing 29 tons of cold mix being required to fix 1,800 potholes, plus discontinuance of the asphalt rehabilitation project (road conditions being past the point of rehabilitation), literally and figuratively we have reached the end of the road.  

We have become a community that finds potholes, not pots of gold, at the end of the rainbow.  

The 2020-2029 multi-year capital plan proposed by town administration identifies $58.3 million of infrastructure capital is required with the most significant cost centres being the following:

• Existing road related projects - total $38.7 million comprised of $29.5 million for surface works (paving and sidewalks), plus $9.2 million for water/sewer plus surface work projects.

• Recreation facilities (excluding library) - $6.4 million.

• New SE reservoir (land acquisition and construction) - $4.8 million.

What should be of concern to everyone is firstly, there are no known sources of funding for 60 per cent of the $58.3 million ($34.6 million), and secondly, there is a myriad of other projects and considerations not included in the $58.3 million or its discounted present value for those following the narrative from a financial analyst's perspective. 

Absent from the multi-year capital plan are the following: a new library, whether it is a new build or a renovation of an existing building; AG Foods building renovations if it is purposed for use other than as a library; $10-20 million for new arena/fieldhouse etc. as identified in the 2013 Recreation Master Plan and other documents; life cycle costs identified by third-party reviews of town-owned buildings and facilities (publicly released ISL Engineering reports on just two of these total $4 million); unknown costs associated with new residential and industrial developments; and inflation.

In considering the above, it is easy to see capital requirements trending towards $90 million.

Our challenges are inadequate funding from known sources, and limited ability to stretch the “copper penny” any further.  

Solutions? To the credit of town administration, they have been reviewing the creation of a road preservation policy, plus developing a strategy to address road related infrastructure issues. This will be presented to council the latter part of January 2020.    

Another avenue is to review possibilities of P3 arrangements (public private partnerships) to fund a new arena/fieldhouse etc., and a new library. 

Such an opportunity is right in our backyard - the Shantz Village Land Corporation issued a sales brochure in late 2017 suggesting such an arrangement for a new arena etc. in Shantz Village. 

Such a project would have a cascading effect on the urban footprint and financial strength of the community.

Unless you have been able to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we are all in this together.  What are your thoughts and comments?

Kevin Bentley,

Didsbury





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