District building up road, bridge fund

$30M a year needed just for maintenance in Maple Ridge.

Bridge over Kanaka Creek opened in 2010.

Bridge over Kanaka Creek opened in 2010.

Maple Ridge is making progress in planning for a way to pay for the pricey upkeep of roads, sewers and sidewalks and to avoid the Quebec scenario where bridges literally fall apart from lack of attention.

After creating an infrastructure sustainability fund in 2008 with zero in the account, five years later, in 2013, there was $2.6 million.

In four years, that’s projected to grow to $6.3M a year. But that’s a far cry from the $30M needed every year to keep everything in top shape.

And without pouring that amount yearly into repairs and maintenance, Maple Ridge’s assets, paid for by taxpayers, will continue to deteriorate and cost even more to repair later.

Maple Ridge council started putting money into the fund in 2008 when it allocated one per cent of the annual four-per-cent increase in property taxes to the fund.

It cut that pack to half a per cent in 2013 to give taxpayers a break, then this year added just more than half a million dollars from the district’s share of revenues from the Chances Maple Ridge community gaming centre. The district gets 10 per cent of the revenues from the slot machines.

In the next few years, the district will continue to funnel in gaming funds while raising the percentage of tax increase for infrastructure projects to .7 per cent.

The payoff in return for squirreling away the money has been some projects already completed, such as rebuilding 122nd Avenue and improving Lougheed Highway.

A staff report notes keeping roads, sidewalks and bridges in good shape gobbles a good part of the infrastructure fund. Last year, more than half of the infrastructure funds, $1.4 million, were spent on roads although a consultant says Maple Ridge should spend $5 million yearly in that area.

One project set for this year is the reconstruction of 203rd Street, north of Dewdney Trunk Road.

Apart from roads and sewers, the district is also tapping into the fund to pay for office equipment and the fire department.

In 2009, $70,000 was plowed into the fire department’s equipment replacement fund. That’s now up to $138,000 in 2013 and helps pay for new fire engines, vehicles and electronic equipment replacement.

The fund also is being used to pay for maintaining municipal buildings and upgrading office equipment.

Maple Ridge News