Closing the Information Gap

There are four core elements to an asset management plan; people, information, assets and finances. Each element is as important as the next, and right now we are committed to closing the information gap.

When reports and studies are at the end of their life span, for example the 2013 Leisure Services Master Plan, it becomes increasingly hard to not only make strategic investment but unlock grant money. If you read nothing else from this article, being successful with grant applications requires current plans.

Provincial and federal grant programs are designed right now to reward municipalities that are moving through a robust asset management program, which means they are penalizing municipalities that aren’t. This is one of the many tools being used to force governments to make better decisions, requiring them to actively champion sustainable service delivery so that future generations are not compromised to meet their own needs.

It might sound ridiculous to anyone who is still with me after reading the words, ‘asset management,’ but the three things that excite me the most right now are; the Integrated Infrastructure Capital Plan, the Fairy Creek Drinking Water Source Assessment and the Avalanche Assessment Project.

What drove the Fairy Creek Water source plan was simply that we do not know enough about the water source, abundance of the source or quality. We are anticipating significant investments in the Fairy Creek water system; switching from chlorine gas to a liquid chlorine treatment, HVAC and electrical work and exploring the requirement for a potential secondary treatment process.

Before commencing that work though, making sure we understood the system in entirety was critical, we want to make sure we are meeting our drinking water needs into the future, and this study will help prioritize and order our investment requirements.

The Avalanche Hazard Assessment will ensure the City of Fernie has a thorough and accurate understanding of the current and future avalanche hazards that may impact area within municipal boundaries, and then inform and update our planning documents and bylaws.

The Integrated Infrastructure Capital Plan (IICP) phase III was completed with grant funding of nearly $200,000 from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. Quite simply, this plan is critical in showing us how and where to invest in either  asset renewal, expansion or potentially divestment. It covers utilities, roads, water, sanitary and stormwater networks. It analyzes facilities and closes all kinds of information gaps. 

Not very long ago, in August of 2017, Council received a report that identified that ‘A number of buildings located at the public works yard have not been maintained adequately over the last thirty years. In 2016, the Quonset building was decommissioned after engineers identified structural issues.’ <August 14, 2017 Public Works Storage Building ‘Grader Bay’, Committee of the Whole> 

Having these plans at the forefront of our budget decisions will prevent that kind of scenario in the future. If we are doing our job, committing to asset management will insulate our community from extreme financial impacts like building failure. The IICP provides an analysis and path for a long-term investment horizon, mid-term and short-term. 

Last year we chased roughly 70 million dollars off the back of a 2013 Leisure Service Master Plan, and that process absolutely taught us about the risk of having such a large information gaps. 
You might ask why closing the information gap is important, and the simple answer is that to do all of the identified maintenance needs, we do not have enough resources. Knowing which areas need our immediate attention versus which attentions need investment in a few years will help us get Fernie to a place of sustainability, and hopefully unlock more grant opportunities in the future.