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Mayor’s Column – December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016


Forty years ago on the first day of September Mirja and I started building our house. It was supposed to last us for a lifetime. Apparently that lifetime is not over yet. That first day of September was beautiful, warm, sunshiny, and our hopes were high. Yes, we did finish the job but don’t start your house after the end of June if you want to complete it before Jack Frost takes over. Just a small word of experience. Start your house whenever the building spirit moves you.

A lot of things happen in forty years. Shingles take a beating from sun, sleet, cold, and heat. Kids put fingerprints on the walls. Dogs pee on the carpet. Water heaters fail. There comes a time when the builder-owner-maintenance one has to acknowledge that he-she and the family is living in an infrastructure deficit.

That infrastructure deficit has to be addressed, fixed, controlled before the roof leaks and the cost escalates. That’s life under the relentless rule of entropy. Things wear out and if we live long enough we’ll have to fix it again. (I reroofed for the second time just last year and I hope that it will be the last time for me. Hence, the 50-year guarantee. Anyone betting on if I’ll live to collect on the guarantee?)

So I reduce my liquid resources by $50,000 and increase the value of my house by an equivalent besides giving me some peace of mind knowing that the sky won’t fall through the roof. That’s good.

Now transfer this tale to our home town. Sixty years ago our ancestors laid some of the first pipe in the soil of the valley. Their children connected other pipes to the originals and their offspring connected others to those. Progress. All the while that pesky second law of thermodynamics is quietly working his baleful magic on the stuff in the ground. Metal and plastic and asbestos and lead and the human body are alike in this: they share a common destiny. They wear out, fall apart, disintegrate. As Councillor Bassendowski revealed last week, time always wins. He’s right. So we, the descendants of the folks who planted the first sewer and water pipes in the soil of Chetwynd have the honor of beginning the replacements that should last another half century – maybe longer.

What about the cost? Why should you pay?

There is a cost to rebuild and replant and reconnect and the cost is not small. However, it is smaller than neglecting to do it. Like education – expensive, but not as expensive as ignorance.

Who should pay? There are several ways of answering this question. We could save up, scrimp, defer other needs until we accumulate enough to install, for example, the East Trunk Main. In the meantime the old main fails and disgorges its contents in areas not approved. Not nice.

Or we could borrow the cost of the replacement and let future users pay down the debt. Councillor Bassendowski expressed this point eloquently last week.

Time is not on our side for the East Trunk Main and Council has opted to borrow to replace it. We trust that you, the residents, will see as we see on this very high priority.

The actual process over the next ten to twenty years will see both borrowing and scrimping. Ultimately, the result will be continuing dependable service to the residents of our home town.

And once again to reference Councillor Bassendowski, by the time the high-priority jobs have been completed in ten or fifteen years the lower priority jobs will have migrated up.

Seems like our great-great grands will be sitting in Council debating these issues for themselves.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor