Needs, Values, and Expectations

The first thirty days of this local government, on your behalf, have been a steep learning curve. The vertical wall of learning so far has included; appreciating the health and condition of our municipal assets, our current infrastructure deficit, the amount of water loss we experience due to ageing infrastructure, upgrades needed in our sewer lagoons, a public works building condemned, a public engagement framework trying to gain support, setting service levels, solid waste management, and of course - snow removal. These are just a few of the issues on our radar.

Fernie is a community full of organizations that make the quality of life here unparalleled and to demonstrate, right now on my desk I have thirty-three community groups applying for a staggering $185,000 worth of grant funding from the City of Fernie. Our Discretionary Grant fund is only $18,000, but this glaring difference highlights the challenge of balancing needs, values and expectations.

As a result of the arena incident, the Fernie Curling Club was faced with no opportunity to make ice this winter. Here is a motivated and enthusiastic curling club that has invested in a municipally owned building, enhanced the building with their own funds, and while other curling clubs are struggling with participants, our Fernie Curling Club sees a monthly usage of 1,100 people! It is astounding!

The balancing act of any local government involves trying to support groups like our very successful curling club without exposing a blind side to responsible asset management, and Fernie will be no different. Balancing the needs and expectations of our community, supporting quality of life capital project expectations, while being stewards of the buildings and infrastructure we manage on your behalf will define our next four years.

Asset management begins with understanding the trade-offs between desired service levels and available resources, and to understand those tradeoffs we need informed decision making. The road to better decision making took Council last week on an afternoon tour of our current infrastructure needs.

We spent the afternoon listening, learning, and asking questions. We toured both water treatment facilities, lift stations, and heard strong analysis for where our water system is going to need immediate attention.

We took the same deep dive on our sanitation system, learning about the aged-out parts of the system and how ‘flushable wipes’ cause significant damage. There are significant parts of this system that will need immediate investment as well.

The next time you have a great idea for us, perhaps to build community infrastructure, or -the request in the last five minutes- which was to support wayfinding to the downtown core, know that our team is equally concerned about the infrastructure needs that you don’t see. The silent and invisible water loss. The sewer lagoon system. The fleet replacement. The lift stations. The annual maintenance of our sewer lagoons.

I am confident however that we will find a path where -with informed decision making- we can support a commitment to strong asset management while enabling and supporting the heartbeat(s) of our community. Like this crazy enthusiastic curling club!

No one said it was going to be easy, there are a lot of tough decisions ahead, but worthwhile endeavours rarely are.

In the meantime, you can support us by NOT flushing wipes down the toilette. Your infrastructure will thank you.