© Star file photo
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender gestures toward deputy mayor Bernd Staeben during the Monday, Jan. 23, 2014 public council meeting.
CORNER BROOK — The highs and lows of what is looking more like a typical Newfoundland winter are of particular concern to a small city like Corner Brook.
Its mayor, Charles Pender, says things have to change to help municipalities adapt to the changing weather — especially financially — to help the city deal with crumbling infrastructure.
A part of the new council’s mandate is to determine exactly what its residents view as priority spending. If that remains things like high-quality water and sewer delivery, smooth roads and efficient snowclearing, it could come at the expense of other services in the city, he said.
The cost of those expected services are escalating, especially with the drastic changes in weather, such as the recent winter cold snap and constant snowfall, followed by the mild and rainy period. A lot of asphalt throughout the city has been destroyed, and there were 17 water and sewer repairs in December alone.
City crews have worked around the clock in preparation for, and in response to, storms — whether it be high winds and rain, or snow. There have been flooding and washouts, immediately after city crews were hammered with a near constant snowclearing schedule.
During Monday evening’s public meeting, Coun. Josh Carey provided residents with an update on the snowclearing effort. He said the rain and mild temperatures have reduced a lot of snow, but crews have also widened and cleared many of the streets — something that is continuing between snowplowing operations. Curb and sidewalk clearing is also ongoing.
The heavy workload is also stressing on equipment, with a salt truck and loader from a mainly aging fleet in need of mechanical repair.
Carey also said city crews are using cold patch to repair the multitude of potholes throughout the city. He said the asphalt reclaimer has been serviced, and arrangements are being made for a safe place to operate it so hot mix can be generated. When weather permits, hot mix will be used in all potholes. Plans are being made to cut out the two large potholes on West Street and replace them with hot mix.
The city is encouraging people to report potholes. It was reported that city staff is aware of 22 areas in the city where there is at least one pothole. It is expected there are many more than that. People can call 637-1666 to report potholes.“The key thing to remember is we have aging infrastructure,” Pender said. “A lot of it has been in the ground for 50 years, and was not designed to meet and deal with the weather conditions that we have now.”
The mayor said millions have been spent on new storm sewers and related infrastructure in areas of high concern, but it appears the smaller areas are now developing into bigger problems.
“I guess the scary thing is, is this going to keep happening?” he said.
Pender said there seems to be no other option for a municipality but to get more funding from provincial and federal governments.
While the city is getting less and less in terms of operational funding from the province, the mayor said it is waiting to see what exactly the province means when it says money is available for infrastructure.
“We want to see a commitment from the province of where (the province is) going to put the dollars in,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is those dollars being taken away if the federal government gives us some money. The federal government has a responsibility to contribute more as well.”
Pender suggested the larger regional municipality should receive the 90/10 funding arrangement with the province, rather than the 70/30 Corner Brook currently receives.
*** Typos corrected ***