City Council got an asset management update at its Committee of the Whole meeting during the regular Council meeting Monday that could prove to be costly.
Although city infrastructure is generally in “fair” to “good” condition according to Josh Mickleborough, manager of engineering services, he told Council that an ongoing condition assessment of infrastructure has indicated there are areas that desperately need improvement.
Among these is the sanitary system in the Dracup Avenue corridor, which has the lowest remaining capacity and the oldest pipe in the system having been built in 1911. Mickleborough said it is a likely candidate for refurbishment especially considering the development in the corridor including the new Parkland College Trades and Technology Centre.
Furthermore, servicing to the north east, which is where residential expansion is most pronounced provides a challenge in that you “run out of gravity,” which will likely require a lift station at some point.
Mayor Bob Maloney acknowledged the problem after the meeting.
“Infrastructure is in bad shape,” he said. “I just returned from Mayors’ caucus meetings in Lloydminster and we all have the same issues and when you look at a reconstruction project on Broadway it’s going to be in the 40 to 45 million dollar range. For a community of 20,000 people that is difficult to finance without question if we don’t get provincial and federal help.
“The state of your infrastructure is difficult for every community across the province. We share that with other communities, where we’re good in some areas, and I think we are doing well in some areas, in others any time you’re talking about pipes that were put in in 1910, that’s an issue.”
On top of the pressing issue of Broadway Street, Dracup is a looming financial problem.
“We’re going to be in the millions on the Dracup project, there’s no doubt about that,” Maloney said. “We’re still looking at what we’re going to be doing and what replacements would be. Until we get further detailing, it’s hard to flesh that out, but it will be a major project, but the reality is you’re doing a project for the next 70 years and that’s always something to keep in mind because the numbers are large and they can be concerning, but especially with projects like that, that pipe’s been in the ground since 1910, and so when you replace it, I think you can I think you can reasonably expect a pretty good lifetime for that infrastructure.”
Also part of Mickleborough’s update was the progress on the City’s Asset Management Working Group, which includes Public Works, Planning and Engineering, Environmental Services and Finance. Asset management, he said, is something municipalities are adapting from the private sector to try to gain efficiencies risk-based approach to prioritization and life cycle management.
The initiative is also essential because Mickleborough predicts the Province will soon require an asset management plan as a condition for funding. He said the group is making steady progress on developing that plan.
The mayor said you can’t underestimate the importance of effective asset management in the current financial climate.
“It’s critical,” Maloney said “You really have to know what’s there and I know our department heads have been doing a lot of work, a lot of research into what’s there, what we’re going to need to replace and whether or not it’s going to be good for now or it’s something that we have to look at. It’s critical because if you don’t know what’s there, you can’t fix it; that’s what we’ve been investing a lot of time in.”
Maloney sees a future in which municipalities are increasingly on their own.
“It is so difficult, because basically, and I think our rate payers have been really good about this, but when you look at the equation you pretty much need four per cent [revenue increase] just to pay wages and to keep pace with inflation and doing nothing means a four per cent increase. Any work you want to do is on top of that and so when you’re looking at increases that are going to be in the eight per cent range, I mean, communities across Saskatchewan are going to see a lot of this and I know there are people who don’t like it, but if you’re going to look after your infrastructure and you’re going to fix things, I think it’s going to be the new reality for the province.”