In terms of municipal needs we have heard a lot in recent years about the impending infrastructure crunch Saskatchewan cities such as Yorkton are going to face in the not all too distant future.
It has been a major issue of discussion when representatives of the province’s cities get together, and a major issue they have lobbied the provincial and federal governments over in recent years.
In Yorkton we are familiar with the situation from listening to City staff at budget time in recent years. They point out urban infrastructure renewal in Yorkton is something measured in decades. Whether it’s the pavement on the streets, the sidewalks in front of our houses and businesses, or the unseen water and sewer lines beneath our streets, replacement is currently on a pace which realistically exceeds the reasonable life expectancy of the infrastructure.
The Yorkton situation is not unique in our province, nor is the issue of infrastructure renewal an issue isolated to cities, or to Saskatchewan.
Frankly communities from Detroit to Canora, all across North America are in the same general boat. Communities, or at least significant portions within those communities are aging.
Take Yorkton as an example. If we were to look at a map of the city circa the mid-1960s, we would still see a sizable community served by water and sewer, sidewalks and asphalt.
The issue though is that much of the infrastructure installed then remains in use today some half century later.
Cast iron pipes and sidewalk cement should not be expected to remain viable for what is more than five decades in some cases.
And as the years roll on the likelihood of failure increases, and at some point the potential for a near cascading breakdown based on antiquated infrastructure looms.
In Yorkton we are about to learn just how costly major system renewal will be as plans are formulating to redo much of Broadway Street. The project, which is likely to be spread over two years has something of an unknown cost, albeit in the millions, because the exact condition of subsurface storm water, sewer and water lines are something of an unknown.
What is pretty much assured is that the overall project will cost taxpayers millions, and it is but one street.
Every avenue in the city core from about Sixth through to Bradbrooke running from Queen Street to York Road are in the same boat in terms of it being high time for renewal. The costs are frankly beyond what even an economically vibrant community such as Yorkton can hope to afford.
And therein lies the conundrum. We have grown to expect potable water with the turn of a tap and that waste goes with a flush, but affording to maintain such service in the face of decades old infrastructure is something no level of government has a handle on as of yet.