Ponoka’s possible infrastructure woes

This week's editorial discusses Ponoka and potential infrastructure issues.

As you may have seen on the front page, we have had a second water main broken in Ponoka in less than a month, causing flooding and requiring some serious repair work. Monday’s second incident follows the one at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex two weeks prior, which forced the postponement of the Ponoka Stampeders’ last game of their hockey season.

While the breakdowns of the water mains coming one after another in such a short span of time may, of course, be purely coincidence, they might also be giving us some signals as to whether there is a need for a comprehensive review of where the town’s infrastructure stands with regard to its lifespan.

Readers should remember that in our stories reflecting the town council discussions on the matter of North Bridge replacement, we have extensively reported on the conversations at the council chambers referring to how the renovation of the structure had been delayed for years and how the bridge is still being used despite having exhausted its originally planned lifecycle and how previous councils and administrations have failed to set aside/allocate funds for the bridge and more generally for infrastructure renovation.

So one would be fairly justified to think that the same negligence shown in the matter of the North Bridge could have been the case for the broader infrastructure picture.

If the latest two instances of water main breakdowns are in fact signs of things to come, they certainly come at a bad time, bad because the town is already preparing to spend some, actually more than some, a lot of money to establish its own full-fledged fire department.

Currently we don’t know if the town administration has a study, either planned or recently conducted, to depict a realistic picture of where the town’s infrastructure currently sits in view of its history.

One hopes that with a new chief administrative officer and a new communications officer installed at the town office, residents might be better informed about how town business is planned and conducted and then we may be in a better position to see whether we are in for some serious tax hikes to pay for the upgrades in addition to the fire service expenditures.

But we also need to remember that infrastructure renovation is something that is on the agenda of all three levels of government in the country.

The federal government has already made known its plans to spend up to $10 billion in the next budget cycle to stimulate economic growth while also serving the purpose of infrastructure renewal. And in the course of the meetings the federal cabinet ministers have been having with provincial and municipal government representatives over the last several weeks, there appears to be emerging a tendency on the part of the feds to directly channel funds to entities, either provincial or municipal, but mostly municipal, for so called “shovel-ready” projects.

One would think it would be good for the Town of Ponoka to be a in a position to be able to produce a few plans for such projects as that kind of readiness would undoubtedly put the town in an advantage to solicit funds under whatever program they might be offered.

But as far as the available information is concerned, the town council and administration have been mostly busy since the 2013 municipal elections with a recreation master plan, which is nowhere near being shovel ready, and lately, with the separation of the fire services from the county, which would hardly be seen as justifying new resources by any funding authority as it contradicts the trend of unifying service provision in the name of cutting costs.

When the budget is announced in full details on March 22, we will be in a better position to know if the lost time over controversial matters in the last two and a half years in Ponoka will also be the reason for missing much needed funding.