Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit August 24, 2016 - 1:15 pm

Nunavut capital makes emergency infrastructure repairs

Mayor says full audit of city facilities, maintenance protocols and human capacity to follow

LISA GREGOIRE
This photo, taken inside the city's dog pound, was brought to council in 2015 by former councillor Kenny Bell who was criticizing the city's lax attitude toward infrastructure repair. (FILE PHOTO)
This photo, taken inside the city's dog pound, was brought to council in 2015 by former councillor Kenny Bell who was criticizing the city's lax attitude toward infrastructure repair. (FILE PHOTO)

After letting some infrastructure replacement and maintenance lapse, the City of Iqaluit is trying to get its house in order, starting this week with up to $150,000 in emergency repairs.

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern confirmed Aug. 24 that about 80 per cent of the work, authorized by a motion which passed during an emergency council meeting Aug. 22, was relatively simple and has already been completed.

The work, which focused on the city’s water infrastructure at five municipal facilities, was identified by an external contractor hired by the city, Redfern said, and included replacement or maintenance of faulty gauges, levers, pipes and wiring, among other things.

Redfern agreed that these emergency repairs could have been avoided with better internal processes to inspect and maintain the city’s assets.

“The fixes to these five facilities, without a doubt, through regular maintenance would have been dealt with,” she said.

“We also need to be looking at processes to ensure that things are maintained and when a part needs replacing that it gets done in a timely manner, by someone who has the qualifications to do it.”

That means assessing human resource capacity at the city, she added, to see whether staff have the necessary skills to identify problems and if not, to ensure they get trained to do so.

The money to pay for this week’s set of repairs came from the federal gas tax fund.

Iqaluit now gets $2.5 million annually through the gas tax fund to pay for municipal infrastructure but the mayor said the system is currently under federal review and may possibly change in future.

A full audit of city facilities will soon follow to ensure larger, more complex infrastructure work is identified and prioritized, Redfern said.

But those larger infrastructure demands — boilers that have exceeded their life expectancy, pipes cracking because of unstable permafrost, for instance — will cost a lot of money.

Which is why the city is doing a full asset inventory and audit, Redfern said — so that they can make a strong case for territorial and federal infrastructure money when the time comes to apply.

“Having that information makes it a lot easier for me, as mayor, and the city, to lobby two other levels of government for what we need,” she said.

The City of Iqaluit has been notoriously uneven over the past decade in dealing with aging and ailing infrastructure, much like many communities across the country.

Redfern said it’s even more difficult in Iqaluit because it’s a hub capital city that serves the region and the territory at large but to a large extent, must rely on a very small tax base for revenue.

Given past neglect, is she concerned what she might find out when a full infrastructure audit is completed? It’s daunting, she agreed, but necessary.

“I’m of the opinion that I’d rather know the true state and condition our infrastructure is in. It’s part of our strategic planning process and development plan,” she said.

“If you don’t look at those issues and identify your problems… it doesn’t get done.”

And, she added, small problems that don’t get fixed turned into larger, more expensive ones.

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