Just a quick meeting tonight. And, not surprisingly, there was no discussion of the proposed increases to water utility rates as that will all happen December 20 when the report is properly considered.

The housekeeping changes to the Winter Maintenance Policy breezed through. Although a presentation by Jamie McKenzie who is a new resident to Regina brought to light some of the ways the city is failing on the snow-clearing front. Jamie’s in a wheelchair and legally blind, so walks that aren’t being shoveled or busstops that aren’t getting cleared are a serious obstacle for him. And he singled out a particular location for special criticism: the vacant lot on 15th and Albert, the sidewalk around which is usually neglected.

I hear ya, man. That corner has been a thorn in my side too. The snow just basically piles up all winter long becoming more and more treacherous. Near the tail end of last winter, when things had gotten particularly awful, I went by surprised to discover a group of people out shoveling it finally. While stopped at the corner waiting for the light to change, I got to talking to one of the guys there and found out that it wasn’t the property owner who was paying them. No, a nearby business had grown so frustrated with the situation they’d taken it upon themselves to hire a crew.

But who are the negligent property owners at 15th and Albert, anyway?

As Councillor Clipsham pointed out tonight, it’s a huge oil company that once had a gas station on that site. And apparently getting them to shovel their damn sidewalk has always been a problem. (And no one seems to be able to get them to clean up the toxic sludge they left in that lot, either. Gotta love the oil industry. It’s so community minded.)

Discussion on sidewalk maintenance basically ended with an agreement that the city has to do a better job of getting on top of absentee landlords. And apparently there will be a review of this year’s winter maintenance performance in July at which it can be determined if further changes are needed to the policy than what was passed tonight.

Oh, and it was also pointed out that at present, the city has a “complaint driven system” where unshoveled walks are concerned. So, if there is a busstop that isn’t accessible or a vacant lot where the snow is building up on public walkways, if no one calls 777-7000 and complains, nothing is going to get done about it.

Also discussed was an informational report on potholes. Apparently, at council’s direction, city administration made some changes to the Pothole Patching Program that were hugely successful. Council was delighted. Some tweaks were made to the way repairs were scheduled (road categories were worked through more systematically instead of seeking out the worst potholes and clearing those up first) and GPS and monitoring systems were put in place so that work could be tracked more efficiently.

In the end, according to the report, the program’s goal “to repair every pothole on every road by the end of the construction season” was achieved.

While this is encouraging news and a triumph for city crews and administrators, the report does note something that didn’t happen to come up at council this evening:

As with most Canadian cities, a significant portion of Regina’s asphalt road network (lower traffic volume roads) is well beyond its design or expected service life. In this context, the amount of potholes and other pavement distressed can be viewed as simple indicators of network health and there is no doubt that potholes will remain a challeng in Regina in the future…. It still remains that pothole repairs are simply a band aid. The health or condition of the road is not improved and the repairs are often not permanent. The pothole patching is roughly $400 per tonne of asphalt where the cost of recapping an asphalt road is roughly $100 per tonne of asphalt. To put things in perspective the 2010 Pothole Patching budget would have paid for the repaving of Albert Street from College Avenue to Victoria Avenue.

So, in short, fixing potholes may be making us feel better in the short term but we’ve got a longer term problem — that our road network is decrepit– and we’re just not solving it.

Beyond that, there was one other item on the agenda tonight that I hadn’t gotten to in my earlier post, and that’s the Moose Jaw – Regina Industrial Corridor. Tonight, council approved $25,000 to go towards the Moose Jaw – Regina Industrial Corridor Stakeholders’ committee’s Planning for Growth project. The goal here is to encourage investment and promote that industrial corridor to the world.

I haven’t got much to say on this except, you know, I’ve lived too many places that have pinned their economic hopes on call centres (Ottawa and the Maritimes for two) that maybe there are worse things than a big bi-city push to get more industry up and running nearby. And council did note that part of the committee’s job will be making sure development of the corridor is done in an environmentally sensitive manner. Still… they’re hoping to lure in more petrochemical plants? I don’t know…. goddamn oil companies can’t even shovel their damn sidewalks in downtown Regina and we think they’ll be all clean and green between here and Moose Jaw? Colour me skeptical.