Right in the centre - Rough roads ahead


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The Town of Neepawa has a problem and it’s pretty obvious what it is. The streets and roads are in terrible shape. So terrible that they are dangerous and causing severe damage to cars and trucks alike.

Now, in terms of full disclosure, I served as mayor of Neepawa from 1998 to 2002 and from 2012 to 2014. I can in no way claim that the councils I served on solved the road problems 10 and 20 years ago and no other council has done so either. It’s not an easy fix. Typically, unless some money comes raining down from the province, the town can only afford to fix a few pieces of road each year. This council is hoping to fix a couple of blocks per year and I am sure that will be appreciated. The problem is there are many blocks and a few roads are measured in part miles, not blocks. I would estimate there are the equivalent of 150 blocks begging to be repaired in Neepawa.

And that doesn’t include Mountain Avenue and Hwy. 16 that runs through the town. Both those highways are theoretically maintained by the province as they were once a provincial responsibility and still are. Hwy. 16 is obvious as it is still a provincial road. Mountain Avenue is an anomaly as it used to be a provincial road back in the day when Mountain was a highway that went north through Neepawa’s downtown business district and turned west on Commerce and then north again as it headed west to Minnedosa and north to Eden. Talk about an archaic arrangement, but it saves the Town of Neepawa some money and the town certainly doesn’t want to add those two routes to their already overloaded maintenance plan.

The Town of Neepawa hopes to fix all the streets, it’s obviously not going to happen. I feel the Town has to quicken the pace. Priority should be given to streets in commercial areas due to much higher traffic counts on commercial streets. Residential streets should have slower speeds anyway and aren’t used as much generally speaking.

The problem is how to pay for the street replacement.

Before you can re-surface a road, all the underground infrastructure has to be fixed, or at least verified, such as water and sewer lines and underground utility lines. That in itself is a big tab.

The town estimates it costs $350,000 to replace a block so and they might be able to fix two blocks a year. At that rate, it will take 75 years to fix all the 150 blocks. Quite frankly, we don’t have that much time. Councils can keep passing it off, much like the two councils I served on did, or we can find a solution.

We know the solution, but how to pay for it? The town can only take on so much debt for two reasons. One, it has to be paid back and two, the province limits the amount of debt (debentures) a town can carry. 

I think a debenture is the only way it can be done and special permission might have to be obtained from the province to take out a special street debenture.

Another alternative might be to invest in a small paving plant and equipment so the town could do the work when they want, rather than wait on the big paver guys. Big companies don’t want to do the small town patch jobs and they also wait until last thing in the fall to do even Neepawa’s bigger jobs which aren’t really worth the companies time and effort to look after.

Neepawa, and perhaps many other communities need to look for a better way. Does anyone have any better ideas? I would like to hear them and maybe the Town of Neepawa would as well. To do little or nothing isn’t viable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.