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Drainage will cost Pitt Meadows 'millions'

An aerial shot of flooding in Pitt Meadows in 2005.  - City of Pitt Meadows
An aerial shot of flooding in Pitt Meadows in 2005.
— image credit: City of Pitt Meadows

The pumps and ditches that keep Pitt Meadows above water are aging faster than the city can replace them.

The estimated cost for replacing all of the drainage infrastructure ranges between $49.5 and $52.4 million.

The city operates and maintains six pump stations, fifteen pumps and eight flood boxes.

The city is responsible for the repair, maintenance and replacement of 725 culverts.

But money being set aside annually for new pumps and culverts falls far short of that goal.

To fund the replacements, the city needs to place $1,170,076 every year into its reserves.

Meanwhile, aging infrastructure is driving up operating costs – significantly.

"We have a crisis on our hands and we have to address it," Mayor Deb Walters said in response to a staff report on the city's worn and outdated drainage infrastructure.

"It's very easy to say we are going to keep taxes low, but then we are just putting off the inevitable for our kids to deal with and that isn't realistic."

The two biggest challenges for the city are figuring out how to spread out costs over the long term and build up reserves to avoid borrowing and grants.

The oldest of the pump stations in the city, located in the Pitt Polder, is between 72 and 82 years old. It will cost between $4.9 and $7.4 million dollars to replace.

The average expected life cycle of a pump is 20 years and the major electrical components in a pump station have, on average, a 25-year life cycle.

The current program assumes replacing one pump a year for the next 13 years.

To do that, the city's operations department is recommending a $2 million increase in capital funding as part of the 2013-2017 budget.

And it's not just pumps that are a problem, as the rate of culvert failure also exceeds the city's current rate of investment.

The current culvert replacement program is set at $200,000 every other year in order to facilitate replacement of large diameter culverts, as required. Since 2008, $625,785 has been spent replacing culverts.

Walters said the city needs to start planning for these replacements.

"We can't put it off any longer," she added.

The city is joining a chorus of municipalities across Canada calling for more support from federal and provincial governments to fund failing infrastructure.

Walters said the city will apply for grants and do its best to put aside money, but can't be expected to fund it all.

"There comes a time when municipalities have to say, 'enough is enough.'"

Coun. Janis Elkerton agreed.

"There is one taxpayer here and everybody needs to be footing the bill," said Elkerton.

"We cannot continue to do everything based on just property taxes. We need help from the senior levels of government to fill basic needs, never mind the niceties."

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