LETTER: Strategic and creative thinking needed

Addressing Summerland’s infrastructure needs is complex and challenging

Dear Editor:

Summerland is a district municipality. As such we have a town core and a rural area.

Other rural towns such as Oliver have only a town core. Their rural area is governed separately by the Regional District and most importantly their roads are maintained by the Province of B.C.

Cities like Penticton and Kelowna have a lot more commercial and industrial tax base

This is a very important concept in the governance of Summerland.

Local government has very limited resources for funding and is dependent on other levels of government for assistance thru infrastructure grants.

This means that we have to be both strategic and creative in our thinking about infrastructure creation and maintenance.

We have a very high road mileage per capita ratio.

Years ago we were able to create a pool facility for the enjoyment of Summerland residents thru a unique partnership with the School District. Alas we now have to rebuild or replace that asset at significant cost to the taxpayers.

Twenty years ago, the council of the day undertook the task of acquiring a community sewer system as a way of taking development pressure off farmland and providing the opportunity for denser development.

That council actively sought the interest of the provincial cabinet in a exciting and innovative sewage lagoon project to provide irrigation water from the effluent.

The politicians loved the idea and granted the funds.

Subsequently the project was switched to the current BNR plant but the funding remained with our community.

In the recent past, we were able to double the size of our largest water storage reservoir with the help of infrastructure grants after a water supply crisis event was magnified into involving federal and provincial governments in providing funding.

This project had the benefit of replacing an existing piece of infrastructure that was causing concern.

The creation of facilities always results in further costs down the road. It is a lesson that takes a lot of the fun out of goal setting exercises.

Summerland council is in charge of operating and maintaining the community’s fundamental infrastructure — water system, roads, sewer system, electrical system, and fire protection. Then comes the quality of life stuff — parks and recreation, and more recently the arts centre.

The water piping system and the roads are tied together as it makes no sense to repave roads with old pipes under them.

We are well behind schedule in road and water pipe repairs.

I appreciate that the grant funding categories do not appear to include roads but perhaps with a little strategic creativity we could make them qualify.

One of Summerland’s most well used recreation facilities is Giants Head Road. Many people go around the Giant’s Head on foot or bikes.

It is the focus of Action Festival events.

The road surface is very deteriorated. Would it be possible to revision the project for its recreation values?

Its environmental values were under appreciated in the last round of grant applications.

This project has long been on the list of necessary upgrades and there are other roads coming along behind it worsening every year.

The fact that other levels of government create funds with limited focus is an opportunity for creativity as we must always remember that our priorities don’t follow the flavour of the day.

Before we undertake new infrastructure assets, we must deal with existing problems.

Lorraine Bennest

Summerland

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