Comox Valley Record

Time for Courtenay to improve below-ground infrastructure

With City budget discussions fast approaching, Courtenay staff recommend a focus on underground infrastructure upgrades in the coming years.

Council is expected to start budget talks later this month, and during this week's committee of the whole meeting, staff updated council on the general status of city infrastructure and strategic improvements.

Tillie Manthey, director of financial services and deputy CAO noted the city has completed quite a few above-ground infrastructure improvements in recent years.

During "the last 10 years or so, council's approved many projects related to above-ground infrastructure, so you've addressed the theatre, the museum, built a new library, built Courtenay Fire Hall No. 1, refurbished the Native Sons Hall, you're working on the Lewis Centre," she said during her presentation to council.

"So where we're focusing now at the staff level is saying, you know, 'We've done a lot of work above ground, and so now, for the years forward, we really would want to shift to the below ground' — and not that we haven't spent money on the below-ground infrastructure, but there's a lot there and there's a lot of work to do."

Kevin Lagan, Courtenay director of operational services, provided a high-level report on Courtenay's infrastructure, noting overall, the city is in "fairly good condition."

However, he explained underground and surface infrastructure generally has a lifespan of about 40 years, and much of the city needs some attention.

"Since its incorporation in 1915, the City of Courtenay has grown significantly over the years, stretching over the original borders to the present boundaries," he wrote in his report. "Rather than undergoing urban renewal, infrastructure has been built out into new areas as development demand increased and the city expanded."

He pointed out a map showing much of the city's westside was incorporated before 1973, as well as the area around the bottom of Ryan Road.

He added roadways are generally in decent shape, and while roads need some work, the focus should be on underground facilities.

"We have many pipes under the ground which are still working, still functioning, and we maintain those, we repair them but the time to replace them with capital projects is fast coming along, and that's a fairly large area," he told council.

He also noted increased compliance requirements around health and safety, environment, legal, insurance and improved engineering standards mean the cost of infrastructure renewal is higher.

"So we pay a far greater amount of money now for getting what we did 15, 20 years ago than we do today," he said. "That puts a burden on how much work we do in any particular year."

According to Lagan's report, some of the City's 2013 strategic capital priorities are:

Subdivision and site development of the Comox Valley hospital

*Courtenay/Puntledge/Tsolum River flood plain study and adaptation work

*DCC bylaw for South Courtenay

*Fibre optic duct cable extension from Fifth Street Bridge to Lewis Centre

*Glacier Road sanitary sewer design

*Headquarters Road from Glacier Road to Vanier Drive school maintenance yard access sanitary sewer design

*Beechwood Road to Christie Parkway water main interconnection

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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