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Qualicum Beach council gets a look at town’s evolving asset management strategy

Plan helps manage infrastructure assets

Town of Qualicum Beach staff members have provided council a detailed update on the town’s asset management.

Their presentation was well-received by council and residents who took part in the committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 15.

The strategy aims to help council and the town in making decision to improve service delivery for infrastructure in a cost-effective way. They include water suppy, wastewater, storm water, buildings, roads, airports, parks and equipment.

Director of finance John Marsh indicated in order to increase the knowledge of staff members, they conducted research and looked at benchmark asset management information derived from other communities to make comparisons.

“From what you read, a community might be really strong in one particular area of asset management but there tends to be not a completion of everything,” said Marsh. “And I guess that speaks to the difficulty of completing all aspects of the asset management process; that’s why I said earlier it’s a multi-year process.”

The digital optimization technology the town purchased in 2019 has helped evaluate roads and arteries in need of remediation. Town public works superintendent Oliver Watson highlighted the town’s overall road conditions, which are still good.

Annually, the town budgets approximately $3M from operating revenue for capital expenditures. But mostly, the funds are invested on new capital projects rather than on existing infrastructure.

Marsh pointed out there is a growing infrastructure deficit problem in Canada, as many communities are not investing as quickly in existing infrastructure that is eroding.

“In Qualicum Beach, it’s not so bad,” said Marsh. “Many of our assets haven’t got to the state that they’re wearing out but that will come over the next 25 years.”

Eventually the town will need to address infrastructure deficit concept but Marsh pointed out it does not mean the town is going to have to put money aside for everything. He said government grants have assisted over the years in upgrading and improving town’s assets.

Manager of operations Arnold Schwabe said the strategy cannot be achieved overnight and will require a variety of steps. The town is currently documenting the needs of the community and levels of services, as well as the risk and opportunity.

“The reason we’re documenting our levels of services is because we currently know what our budget is every year,” said Schwabe. “What we need to figure out is how we’re spending that money, when we’re spending it, where we’re spending it and why we’re spending it. Once we have those kind of answers, then we can start at looking at other things like are there more efficient ways to spend it and use our resources more wisely?”

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Schwabe pointed out there is always a risk whenever the town undertakes any infrastructure repairs or invests in a project.

“We can’t afford to do everything,” said Schwabe. “Obviously our taxes are fairly limited. You know our resources are finite so we have to assume some level of risk in everthing we do. And risk is going to be involved. What we need to do is to manage that risk. And the way we manage it is things like policies and bylaws.”

The asset management strategy will also soon include natural assets. The town, according to the Official Community Plan, shall endeavour to manage the natural capital and ecological assets such as green space, aquifers, foreshore areas and creeks.

Director of planning Luke Sales said in reaching this goal, the initial steps will be to identify the town’s natural assets and their current conditions. They will be included in the asset management strategy and also be considered in the context of climate change and environmental protection.

Town council has directed staff to prepare a report to revise the current asset management strategy to include natural assets. Council also unanimously voted to include asset management strategy during budget deliberations.

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Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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