Flooding aftermath | Rural municipalities are considering public-private funding model to address infrastructure shortfall
Representatives of Saskatchewan’s rural municipalities recently passed a resolution asking the provincial government to increase its funding caps on infrastructure.
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, which met in Saskatoon Nov. 13-14, wants the annual cap for road and bridge construction maintenance increased to $1 million from $750,000.
Ongoing wet years and excessive rainfall are taking a toll on the province’s roads and bridges, said Ray Orb, SARM’s acting president.
“Definitely there’s been areas of the province that have been hit pretty hard by the extreme amount of rainfall,” he said.
“It seems that generally there’s a problem somewhere every year in the province with bridges.”
Orb said higher construction costs and delays caused by wet conditions are putting pressure on RMs to complete project’s within their budgets.
“If we don’t convince the province to give us more funding into MREP (Municipal Roads for the Economy Program), then there will most likely be fewer projects that will be completed,” he said.
“I’m sure there’s a long list of applicants through the MREP.”
RMs are responsible for maintaining 1,625 bridges in the province, which does not include bridges in towns, private bridges and bridges within First Nations boundaries. Most of the bridges are in northeastern Saskatchewan.
Municipal bridge engineer Daniel Segal said a new bridge will last twice as long as a large diameter culvert but costs twice as much.
“None of the RMs want to fork out half a million dollars when they can put $100,000 or $200,000 in a culvert,” he said. “The culverts will only last about 30 to 35 years before they rust out and you have to put a new one in.”
Culverts have also been failing more than bridges because of excess moisture, he added.
Orb said municipalities continue falling behind with their road and bridge upgrades and repairs, which increases the cost.
“Definitely there’s a certain amount of catch up,” he said.
“The longer you delay the projects, the more money it costs to get them done and the more behind you get.”
Orb said SARM has proposed the public-private (P3) funding model to work in conjunction with Canada’s national building fund. The P3 model involves private enterprise along with federal, provincial and municipal governments.
“What we asked for was $40 million a year over four years so the total would be $160 million. It’s more a long-term program,” he said.
“So the two programs should run in conjunction with each other. It would help up catch up a little sooner. That would be a win-win for SARM. It would be a win-win for the province, too.”
Other resolutions that passed in-clude:
- Banning the sale and use of plastic garbage bags.
- Removing the two percent depreciation on steel hopper bottom bins.
- Holding landowners and conservation groups responsible for cleaning out their culverts.
- Increased measure from the province on flood control programs, and for producers not to be penalized in 2014 for production loss due to excessive moisture.