By Andru McCracken
Valemount’s March 10 council meeting began with a sobering 30 minute presentation from John Weninger an Engineer with Urban Systems Ltd. Weninger’s presentation was innocuously titled: “Improving Asset Management Planning at the Village of Valemount,” but the content was enough to worry councilors.
Weninger found that the village isn’t putting enough aside to maintain infrastructure.
He said that conservatively, the village should be putting $1.15 million aside each year.
“You are stewards of $54 million worth of assets, much of this infrastructure was installed in the 1970s; it is approaching the end of its life in the coming decades,” said Weninger. “You have been very successful securing grants. You need to be conscious that the availability of grants in the future for the rehabilitation of linear water and sewer assets is uncertain.”
He suggested user fees and taxation be adjusted to reflect those long term needs.
Councillor MacLean asked if Valemount’s financial position was typical of other communities.
“The amount you have for capital is very low…. I highly recommend you increase revenues so you can be more self sustained,” he said.
Councillor Hollie Blanchette and Mayor Owen Torgerson said that the required investment (even at the low end allowing that some infrastructure may exceed its engineered life expectancy by 50%), presented a frightening scenario.
Torgerson ventured that taxpayers would see a hefty user fee and tax increase to save enough to replace the infrastructure, during the council meeting he conjured a 21% increase, but it’s unclear if the increase would need to be that high.
“It’s scary, it’s inadequate and we need to do some digging,” said Torgerson.
Torgerson agreed with another point made by Weninger, that the village’s existing Development Cost Charges were inadequate. Development Cost Charges are levied when new subdivisions are built and they offset the capital costs of providing, constructing, altering or expanding road water and sanitary sewer facilities to service new developments.