Looking at the top stories of the year

After careful reflection, the AAP process to tackle Cranbrook's ever growing infrastructure deficit is the top story of 2016.

The AAP process is Cranbrook's story of the year

The AAP process is Cranbrook's story of the year

Looking back through our Year in Review features (see Page 3, Townsman), we can see how 2016 was filled with drama, comedy, joy, tragedy and the pedestrian moments that, on a day-to-day basis, make up all the years of our community.

Even so, when looking at what a tumultuous year past it was in terms of world events, and how matters abroad gripped us and got inside our heads, the news from Cranbrook in 2016 seems almost ho-hum by comparison. As we go to select our story of the year, there’s nothing jumps out immediately for its  sexy, shocking effect that changed all our lives.

Certainly, various individuals and groups captivated us with their accomplishments — Tristen Chernove’s performance at the Paralympics, for example. The recent trial of the trio from the polygamous community of Bountiful bodes to be precedent-setting. The pending retirement of MLA Bill Bennett, and MLA Norm Macdonald, resulted in some political turbulence at the local level, which will rear its head again come May, 2017. The urban deer are always in the news, and the translocation trial of spring, 2016, will be coming back to us with more news and information. The rumour engine continued to churn out rumours about the Kootenay Ice, keeping us all in a stew. We have watched Idlewild Dam rise again (caution: clumsy metaphor coming) like the Phoenix, from the, er, ashes of the decommissioned lake.

But after due reflection, we have selected for our story of the year something so unglamorous and unsexy that people would just as soon not think about it too much. And that is our infrastructure — the rickety pipes beneath our feet that carry water to us, and away from us, and the City of Cranbrook’s Alternative Approval Process, by which is going to borrow $10 million to fix some of that infrastructure.

It has been some years now that Cranbrook has known it is sitting on a vast and aging infrastructure deficit to the tune of roughly $100 million.

Mayor Lee Pratt and Cranbrook City Council set out to move this process along, by bringing in the Council gave third reading to the Capital Roads Program Loan Authorization Bylaw, which would allow the City to borrow $10 million to fix infrastructure, under the Alternative Approval Process.

Remember our last AAP? The proposed Cranbrook Boundary Expansion of 2009? (Now that was a story of the year!) That AAP resulted in a divisive referendum, still frequently discussed and referred back to. So there was a certain element of ‘here we go again.’

And indeed, there was a formal opposition to the AAP — to bring it to referendum. The tax increase it would entail to pay back the loan left many people disgruntled. There is a school of thought that a municipal government should not be borrowing money for these purposes — that it should either raise that money through taxes or redistribute its spending.

But in the end, there was no referendum. The City reported that more than 90 per cent of the electorate endorsed the proposal — according to the number of electoral response forms, at least.

So let the roadwork begin. Mayor Lee Pratt ran for election in 2014 in large part on infrastructure issues, so let it be said that the Mayor is adhering to his mandate.

A large part of the story, as far as we’re concerned, is that the City’s ability to check the state of its infrastructure has become far more sophisticated. While pipes under the roads used to be repaired at the same time, the City recently conducted an infrastructure audit of its system, using cameras, checking every pipe across Cranbrook. The City is now aware of the state of our infrastructure down to the fine print, is better able to predict trouble spots and forecast the nature of upgrades.

So the $10 million is a good start towards this $100 million infrastucture deficit. Like we say, it’s an ‘unsexy’ story, but when we live in a city built on a swamp, those groaning pipes beneath our feet tend to loom large

* * *

Also, as our other Story of the Year, we have to salute the College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball teams for providing us with such compelling competition in the 2015/16 season. The Women’s squad captured their first-ever provincial championship in Abbottsford with a thrilling come-from-behind win over the top-ranked Vancouver Island University Mariners. Ranked in sixth place heading into the tournament, the women coursed the competition with a series of upsets right into the finals.

We wish the Avalanche all the best in 2017.

And we wish you, are readers all the best in 2017 as well. Happy New Year.