JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst (above), standing at a retention pond at the southeast corner of Brandon on Wednesday, pledges to make stormwater management a priority if re-elected. Rival Mark Kovatch says council’s time could be put to better use, while fellow candidate Rick Chrest says Decter Hirst is “mimicking” issues he has already raised.
Aging infrastructure combined with extreme weather have led to a "perfect storm" for Brandon’s drainage system and a new plan is needed to tackle stormwater management, says Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.
Turtle Crossing campground owner Mark Kovatch (SUBMITTED)
Decter Hirst made her second platform announcement on Wednesday at the retention pond in the southeast corner of the city.
"We have to make sure our infrastructure is in place that is going to handle more extreme weather events like we’ve been seeing regularly over the past four years," she said.
The first thing that needs to be done, she says, is a "comprehensive stormwater risk assessment," to find out where the trouble spots are in the city, what is causing the problems and come up with some solutions.
"There’s all kinds of innovation out there … we’re standing beside what’s known as a wet pond; however, other communities … have done some incredible things with dry ponds," she said.
"They look just like a great big green field unless you get a ton of rain and then it fills with water, holds it and then slowly releases it into the stormwater system."
Once the information is gathered, Decter Hirst is calling for a city-wide stormwater management master plan to include minor systems such as piping, manholes, catch basins, etc., as well as major systems such as detention facilities, park land and overland street drainage.
Back at the beginning of this council’s term in 2010, a stormwater drainage plan was identified as a priority in the Roadmap for Growth, under the infrastructure pillar.
Funding for a "drainage master plan" wasn’t approved until the 2014 budget, when $250,000 was allocated.
"Storm management is not new to staff but needs to be a higher priority for council," Decter Hirst said.
The mayor said the plan is not complete, and because of lack of information it may not be incorporating a one-in-five-year storm event or one-in-100-year events as of 2015.
"Residents should be able to expect that the city will do whatever’s necessary to ensure we have adequate infrastructure," she said.
The infrastructure and plans currently in place do not account for extreme weather, and the mayor says they need to "up our game, both at the city level and at the resource allocation level to ensure that these basements don’t flood."
Mayoral candidate Mark Kovatch wasn’t impressed with the mayor’s announcement, and said council’s time could be put to better use.
"We do not require another committee to tell us what we already know," he said. "Brandon just went through a record rainfall event in June and the corresponding record flood that followed. Our storm water system was thoroughly tested and we had problems arise in the areas we expected like Richmond Avenue across from Shoppers Mall."
Kovatch said there was a noticeable improvement in flood mitigation this summer compared to 2011, which shows the city has competent staff in the planning department.
"We already have a master plan in place — it is called modern civil engineering practices. And we also know what needs to be done. The question for city council to answer is who will provide the funding to do it," Kovatch said.
Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Rick Chrest thought the mayor’s first two announcements looked quite similar to what he outlined in his campaign brochure, distributed two weeks ago.
"She’s … kind of mimicking the issues I’ve raised," he said. "Last week it was our tired recreation facilities … and then this week I’d taken issue with infrastructure and specifically stated that neighbourhoods are suffering ongoing infrastructure shortcomings such as stormwater capacity."
Chrest said Decter Hirst has had four years to tackle these issues, but there hasn’t been any "meaningful work" done yet.
"I just see our current state of affairs … we’re suffering what I call ‘paralysis by analysis,’" Chrest said. "They like to do a lot of studying, and frankly, personally I like to … take action. I like to get a plan and then get at it."
» Twitter: @jillianaustin
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 4, 2014