A CONSTANT CITY CHALLENGE
What “Asset Management” means, and why we should care
Rossland Council and senior staff started early with a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. This session was a workshop on “Asset Management” presented by Grand Forks Chief Administrative Officer Doug Allin. Allin donated his time for the workshop, and Mayor Kathy Moore thanked him for that demonstration of community collaboration.
Allin made several points during his presentation; he praised Rossland for its progress so far on asset management, but warned that “some tough decisions are coming up.” He spoke of the need to deliver services without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs — without “passing on our debt to future councils” as has been common practice in the past: failing to set aside funds to repair infrastructure in the future has led to a massive “infrastructure debt” in all communities across the country, as municipal governments everywhere struggled to keep taxes low. As a result, much infrastructure is not only old but also failing (like Rossland’s 100-year-old water mains) and needs replacing, some urgently. And most of that replacement is very expensive.
Allin used materials from “Asset Management BC” for his presentation. He laid out the essential steps of the asset management process, starting with assessment of current asset management practices and the current state of assets, and the level of risk involved in continuing to use them in their current state. After assessment, the next move is planning; creating a user-friendly asset management policy, strategy, and plan, and then integrating them into a long-term financial plan. Implementation of asset management practices is next, then measuring and reporting, and moving on again to assessment; a constant cycle.
Allin emphasized the importance of staff education, saying that it is a “bad place to try to save money” and helpful for succession planning. He urged constant communication among Council, staff, and the public. He noted from experience that “sometimes changes that seem like no-brainers end up being controversial.”
Looking toward Rossland’s need to hire long-term CAO and CFO, Allin commented that candidates for those positions should have “great networks.”
He identified the fundamental question for asset management to answer: “How do we balance long-term infrastructure costs against available revenues to set affordable levels of service acceptable to community residents, business and industry?” Cost containment is a constant challenge.
Rossland’s Council, staff and interested residents will now continue wrestling with the asset management problem and, hopefully, finding the best available solutions.