Town of Ponoka council was recently briefed on the progress of an Asset Management Lifecycle Plan, approved in the 2014 capital budget, which has several phases, according to Dave McPhee, town’s director of operations and property services.
The first phase takes an inventory of all the town’s infrastructure assets and includes buildings/structures, bridges, roads, sidewalks and curbs, water and storm system, sanitary sewer and treatment, electricity infrastructure and the Industrial Airport. To accomplish the task, the town has been working with RPM Consulting to ensure no stone remains uncovered.
Also in the first phase is the breakdown of what it cost to build the assets when first installed and what they would cost to replace.
McPhee was clear on what the asset management plan actually is: a working document that can change over time. He said the best way to have an understanding of the potential infrastructure costs is to know what is there. This is also something that can help council as well during budget planning, added Mayor Rick Bonnett.
“If you don’t know what you have and where you’re going to go, you can’t make good decisions,” said Bonnett.
The second component of the project puts the town’s infrastructure on a maintenance/replacement program. Where McPhee sees a need for work is in the roadway system. Generally the underground infrastructure is in good shape, explained McPhee.
While the capital dollars needed to replace infrastructure over a period of approximately 10 years sound as a big number — $9.4 million in roadway rehabilitation, $13 million in roads — the lifecycle plan sets out time lines for maintenance, which could extend the life of the asset, and sets out general time lines for when a replacement is needed.
“If everybody knows (what’s) going in, then we’re way further ahead in the long run,” said Bonnett.
Asset management is a federal requirement for municipalities. McPhee said communities need to include in their statements a list of assets and the value of those assets. In addition, municipalities are required to provide an asset management plan in 2017 to be able to take advantage of the Federal Gas Tax Fund.
Bonnett suggests like any business, or homeowner, when looking at a large capital project requiring grants or loans, a plan is the first thing lenders will look at. The provincial and federal governments are no different.
The town did conduct an asset inventory in 2002 when it was mandated, but it wasn’t managed over the years as the town grew. McPhee said this new plan helped identify any misses and clarified for planners what is actually in the community. His goal is now to create a long-term capital planning system.
When asked about balancing out requests for improved recreation while ensuring infrastructure is maintained, Bonnett replied that the more people that move to town, the more taxes the town generates. By improving on infrastructure such as the new North Bridge, it shows to newcomers the town is ready to provide services to residents.
McPhee says two key things will happen as a result of this study. First it will allow planners to budget and prepare for replacements needed in the future. The second thing to occur will be for engineers to put together a maintenance plan to get assets to the end, or beyond, of their lifecycle.
Bonnett said the upcoming demolition of Town Hall is a perfect example of the need for proper maintenance. “If that would have been maintained 10, 20, 15 years ago, or we would have remediated some of the issues going forward, we wouldn’t have had to close it.”
Bonnett said the building is 45 years old and when there were issues of flooding, proper clean up and maintenance could have extended the life of Town Hall.
Council is expected to see the final version of the report in the next few months.