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Population growth best way to tackle Penticton’s $175-million infrastructure deficit: mayor

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Population growth best way to tackle Penticton’s $175-million infrastructure deficit: mayor – Oct 5, 2016

From re-paving roads and sidewalks to repairing water mains and maintaining old buildings, there’s too much aging infrastructure in Penticton and far from enough money to pay for all of the upgrades.

It’s a similar story for many municipalities across Canada and the south Okanagan city is certainly not immune to the country’s infrastructure challenges.

“Ten or 20 years ago, the level that municipalities had to share with the federal government for infrastructure was 23 or 28 per cent and now it’s 52 per cent,” Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit said.

This week, staff presented council with a report showing the city’s infrastructure deficit is a whopping $175-million.

“I think most people sort of get sticker-shocked and think ‘oh that’s a big number’ and it is a big number,” Jakubeit said.

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With buildings like the 66-year-old Memorial Arena at stake, council needs to take a hard look at how it’s going to tackle such a heavy expense.

Some avenues the city is considering are tax increases, selling off non-essential properties, focusing on the direst upgrade needs and appealing to higher levels of government.

But Jakubeit said the best option is to have more people living in the city paying property taxes.

“Being very aggressive with population growth is probably the best way of organically coming up with that revenue instead of just going to taxes,” Jakubeit said.

While there are some very tough decisions ahead, the mayor said this isn’t a crisis.

“The sky isn’t falling,” he said.

Jakubeit is urging residents to get involved in the discussion.

The city will be seeking public consultation over the next few months.

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