Planning project pegs Slocan’s future infrastructure costs
March 28, 2022 | By John Boivin
The latest stage of a study on the Village of Slocan’s infrastructure has outlined the costs to taxpayers of building and maintaining civic services.
A report presented to council says it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to keep providing those services in the decades to come – outlining the importance of proper asset management.
“The intention of these numbers is not to scare anybody,” said Andre Van Den Berg, a consultant with LandInfo Technologies. “They are just used as a basis for decision making, and at its core that is what asset management is all about.”
LandInfo has been working with the Village on asset management for several years, creating an inventory of municipal water pipes and sewer lines, parks, roads, public amenities and property. The database gives planners a complete picture of the materials, condition, and the expected lifespan of the various Village-owned structures.
The consultant also tried to set priorities for maintenance or replacement. It did that by calculating the risk level the town faces – by estimating the likelihood of that infrastructure failing and the consequence such a failure might have on the public.
Based on LandInfo’s study, the Village owns $23.5 million worth of infrastructure. Of that, more than half is the water and sewer system, while another quarter is municipal buildings, parks and property.
The company applied formulas to calculate the failure risk of each Village asset. It then applied those factors to determine the best options annually for replacement, maintenance and upgrades.
The consultant found that the Village would have to spend $590,000 annually to manage all its assets properly for decades to come. Even after assuming the Village could get up to 75% of all projects paid for by higher levels of government, it still leaves local taxpayers having to raise $147,000 annually for projects.
“This value can be drastically changed based on your decisions, and managing cost and services is the reason we do asset management,” Van Den Berg said, adding the number can be raised or lowered by timing projects carefully based on educated guesses about how long a piece of infrastructure will last.
“The value can be decreased by accepting relatively more risk, and lowering your levels of service,” he says.
But even with some financial voodoo cutting costs, it’s likely the local taxpayers will soon be asked to put up a lot more money in the future for planned infrastructure work.
Right now, the Village likely only raises a fraction of LandInfo’s $147,000 estimated target. Staff were going to review the issue with the Village’s financial officer.
The report also provides a snapshot of the Village’s infrastructure needs for the next four years.
The priority should be the water system, since it is the most vulnerable, and would affect the most people should it fail, the report says.
The major immediate project is improving the source of Village drinking water.
“This is the highest priority capital project for the Village,” the report says, estimating the cost of a new treatment system at $6 million – at least $1.5 million paid by the Village.
The Springer Creek Streambank and Stream Bed Restoration is a $150,000 project set for 2023, and the watermain replacement on south Main Street is expected to cost about $400,000, with a quarter paid by the Village.
“There are large upgrades expected in the Village’s water system and this system should be in the highest priority for municipal investment in the short term,” the report says. There are also filters and other ongoing costs with the existing system, eventual replacement of the steel and asbestos-concrete main lines, and improving the flow patterns in the system itself.
The distribution system can be replaced a bit at a time on a regular basis, as those pipes can last from a few decades to more than a century. The report also suggests the Village invest in leak-detection equipment to try to track down the Village’s prodigious water use – more than 1,000 litres/person/day. It also proposes improvements to the stormwater drainage system, planned to target problem areas around town.
There’s good news in the report, as well. The Village’s buildings, parks, wellness centre, public works yard and other buildings are in good shape and needing no large short-term capital investments. No large expenditures are expected for most of the Village’s equipment, save a new excavator that is reaching the end of its service life.
“Having a short/mid/long-term asset management plan in place will allow for improved capital planning/budgeting, and will assist with future funding applications,” the Village CAO says.
“Prior to the completion of this asset management plan, the Village did not have a formalized asset inventory,” says Michelle Gordon. “Having the knowledge of the current condition of assets will allow the Village to strategically plan for asset maintenance and renewal in the future.”
Council received the report as information.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, VALLEY VOICE