Big projects on tap for 2019

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming says infrastructure redevelopment is one of the city's most pressing issues for the coming year.

Cumming, who was elected in October, says the city's top priorities match his own campaign platform: affordable housing, public safety and the infrastructure deficit.

He said sitting in the mayor's chair has been "an 80/20 experience – 80 per cent was expected, 20 per cent is ... you've got to be kidding."

When it comes to infrastructure, Cumming says Vernon is not alone in being behind the eight ball.

"Cities right across the country have not been putting enough money aside" to replace 100-plus-year-old utilities including sewer and water lines, culverts and more. Most of downtown Vernon's underground infrastructure is about 50-60 years old, he said.

Key projects this year include a major drainage project at the corner of 48th Avenue and Highway 97, in front of Vernon Toyota, where annual flooding is a concern. Improvements there will cost $2.7 million.

Also, the next phase of the 30th Street multi-use path downtown will be the final link to connect Polson Park to the Village Green Mall, joining up with the 29th Street multi-use corridor to create a safe walking and cycling route right across the city.

Cumming described it as a "third spine" along with 27th Street and Highway 97. The latest phase of the project will cost $5.8 million.

Beer lovers may be happy to hear construction of an anaerobic bioreactor and purpose-built conveyance pipe from the Okanagan Spring brewery to the Vernon wastewater treatment plant will allow for future expansion at the brewery. Drivers may not be so happy. The project will tear up 25th Avenue for much of the year.

The project's $11-million cost will be paid by the city and then repaid through user fees by Okanagan Spring.

Other smaller projects include a permanent structure for washrooms at the downtown bus loop, washroom renovations at the DND fields, and ongoing rehabilitation of older pipe with "cured in place piping," which extends older pipe's service life by lining it with new material and avoids digging up streets.

"These are all issues that are not going away," said Cumming.

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