As the town’s asset management project continues, planners are finding large gaps in the data needed to help them plan for the future.
Consultant Colin Roggeveen, of RPM Consulting, updated council Tuesday, Aug. 9 regarding the status of the project and while he was able to provide some cost estimates of infrastructure project needs, he was unable to confirm other pieces of information due to having no information in the town’s asset data.
“The information in the study is, once again, an educated guess,” Roggeveen explained of his replacement cost estimates in the road system.
As an example, Roggeveen said a previous study had called for $6.355 million in the rehabilitation and construction of roadways for 2012 to 2016. However, Roggeveen was unable to garner any information on what was done in that time period and what the condition of the rest is in.
Curbs and sidewalks consideration again shows gaps in the information the town has. Accompanied with a slideshow he prepared, Roggeveen told council the data from the sources is incomplete with no date on the length, width and profile of sidewalks to help determine replacement costs. “All we have is sheets that say there’s a sidewalk in it.”
The least populated of all the assets is the storm system. Roggeveen said he was unable to garner information on the length of pipes in town, the diameter and material the pipes were made of. He was unable to provide an accurate cost replacement assessment of the storm system.
“How do you set a priority if you don’t have the data?” asked Coun. Carla Prediger.
Roggeveen said the next step is to do a risk management assessment but it can be a challenge to prioritize infrastructure.
What is happening with the town’s asset information?
It appears 40 per cent of the town’s geographic information systems (GIS) are missing.
Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services for the Town of Ponoka, said some of it was lost during a flood at Town Hall in 2013.
Prior to that, there was a sewage backup in the basement; the now demolished town hall was also a sewage lift station for the town. However, some information just isn’t there.
In conducting some research, McPhee found out some of the companies that did map work for the town many years ago were no longer in existence and those maps could not be found. “We don’t have that information available,” he said.
Mayor Rick Bonnett said he recalled in 2007 during a budget meeting the town was then putting money into GIS. “Where did this stuff go to if we spent the money on that?” asked Bonnett.
It appears that while the town was still paying a company annually to store and maintain a GIS database, nobody was using it. McPhee said when he started with the town he wanted to access the data, but it was not in the system. “Where’s the electronic library? Where’s all the maps?” he explained to council.
This engineering firm — ISL Engineering — was being engaged by the town at the time, said McPhee, and that the town had continued to pay the company annually to maintain this database.
“Over the years the town has been paying, on average, $25,000 to $30,000 a year to this engineering firm,” stated Dave McPhee.
Once he was apprised of the situation, McPhee said he cut ties with the company. Another company, Allnorth Engineering, has since been hired to a point where the town will be able to put together a sufficient amount of data. “During the next two years we, want to fill in all these gaps,” McPhee added.
Maintaining the GIS system
In an interview last week CAO Albert Flootman confirmed that ISL Engineering had been contracted by the town in 2003 to create a GIS system.
It was originally meant to be an 18 month to two year contract but was ended in 2013 by McPhee.
“The town continued to use ISL and ISL continued to bill the town to my knowledge,” explained Flootman. “Now the town was providing data to ISL on an ongoing basis.”
The issue it appears is there was no active users in town administration and no one was accessing the information. Over time the system kept building and ISL kept billing. When McPhee went to access the system, said Flootman, he discovered that it was out of date GIS software.
Some time after that the town contracted with Allnorth Engineering.
Flootman clarified that there are benefits to a geographic system that covers all the assets of the town but also property data, mapping, capital projects and improvements as well as taxation and other information planners need. What appears to have happened is no one at administration prior to 2013 did anything with the information.
“While it requires a fair bit of investment and time and energy and money up front, it pays back down the road,” said Flootman.
It is unclear how that information was being stored in such a way that it was unusable by the town but Flootman suggested someone has to be updating with new and improved developments in the system.
Presently the town has access to its data through Allnorth’s secure servers and Justin Caslor, the town’s engineering technician, is accessing and updating the information and Flootman wants staff to have a knowledge of how to use it. “The key in my view is we have active users within the town organization.”
“Use of the system will grow,” he added.