BY RICHARD GILBERT - A new survey reveals an unprecedented number of people in Winnipeg believe infrastructure is the biggest challenge facing the city, as potential candidates for mayor in upcoming civic elections focus on this issue.
“The condition of infrastructure in Winnipeg and Manitoba is very poor,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association. “If you look at the streets in the city, many of them are pathetic. But, this is really not different than many other cities across Canada. What people want is leadership and fiscal responsibility, not complaints. They just want it done.”
Probe Research Inc. recently conducted a survey of 605 Winnipeg adults that found six-in-ten respondents (61 per cent) believe infrastructure is the most pressing concern facing the Manitoba capital.
This figure includes 51 per cent who pointed to the condition of Winnipeg’s streets and roads, and an additional 10 per cent who are concerned about the state of water and sewer infrastructure.
In addition, the survey found that the proportion of Winnipeg residents concerned about infrastructure has reached record high levels.
However, Lorenc notes that the problems with Winnipeg’s infrastructure are not new.
“I don’t think the role of the winter is different this year than previous years,” he said.
“What plays into public opinion is that people are seeing the infrastructure deteriorate on a yearly basis. It’s reached a tipping point. They are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”
Infrastructure surpassed crime as the most important issue facing Winnipeg in December 2013, when slightly more than one-third of Winnipeg adults (35 per cent) said infrastructure is the top civic priority. Since then, the proportion of Winnipeggers concerned about the state of the city’s infrastructure has nearly doubled from 35 per cent to 61 per cent.
As a result, Winnipeg’s infrastructure is becoming an important political issue in this fall’s civic election.
Late last month, Winnipeg City Councillor Scott Fielding launched an online petition to get citizens to ask the city to make the repair of crumbling roads a top priority.
Fielding said part of the city’s planned $600 million investment for the next phase of rapid transit could be better spent on building other infrastructure, including an underpass. He is considering a run for mayor in the Oct. 22 election.
Mike Vogiatzakis, owner of the Voyage Funeral Home in Elmwood, will formally declare his candidacy for mayor on May 1.
Vogiatzakis held a press conference on March 21 to announce that he wants a permanent solution to fix potholes and demonstrated a possible solution called Pellet Patch.
The product is from New Jersey and can work in winter climates. Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Phillips said Winnipeg residents are experiencing the coldest winter in more than 100 years.
Phillips calculated the average temperature from December to March was -18.3 C. In 1898, the average Winnipeg temperature for the same four months was -18.4 C.
According to the City of Winnipeg, residents reported 2,465 frozen water pipes between Nov. 1 2013 and April 14, 2014. This is the highest number of frozen water pipes in more than 35 years.
Even with the warmer temperatures, the risk of frozen pipes will continue until the frost is out of the ground, which could be as late as June.
A section of water main on Laxdal Road in Winnipeg had 12 leaks which interrupted service to 38 homes from Dec. 29, 2013, to Jan. 19, 2014. This is an unusually high number of leaks in a very short time.
Police were called after some residents vented their frustration at city crews that showed up on the street.
Extreme weather changes can cause the ground to swell and contract, placing excessive pressure on the water mains, causing any weakened pipe to break.
As a result of the rapid decline in the condition of the water main on Laxdal Road, it has been added to the 2014 Water Main Renewal Program and assigned the highest priority.