By Nick Bernard
Minden Hills council heard a number of delegations ahead of continued deliberations for the 2022 budget. While none of the reports required any immediate action from council, the information presented a number of serious financial considerations for councillors to ponder.
Nick Larson of the Ontario Clean Water Agency presented a summary of Minden’s recently-drafted asset management plan for the township’s water and wastewater infrastructure. The plan covers almost 400 assets dedicated to water management, including treatment and distribution.
Larson said having an asset management plan, required by the Ontario government, helps council and the public understand how the township spends its money, especially for critical infrastructure.
“I do think even without a regulatory requirement, that a nice, efficient way of doing an asset management plan lets a community understand the value of what you get for your infrastructure investment,” Larson said. “So we can say, here’s how much money we’re planning to spend, and then really understanding what that’s going to get us in terms of the performance of our infrastructure.”
According to the analysis, each asset is rated into three performance categories: Good, Fair, and Poor. Currently, 13 per cent of the township’s water assets fall into the Poor – or, requiring treatment or spending – category. Larson says proactive spending would also be needed to keep assets that perform fairly – working, with some deficiencies – from falling into the poor category.
“It is inevitable that, over time, all [fair performance] becomes [poor performance],” Larson said, “That’s just the nature of infrastructure.”
The total cost for the repair or replacement of the township’s water infrastructure is over $37.1 million. For assets in the poor performance category, the cost is just under $4.8 million.
Currently, a rate study is underway, which will examine ways to establish rate increases to fund the plan’s forecasted expenditures. The study will consider the impacts of inflation, new development from a growing customer base, and money the township already has available in order to dictate where those increases happen.
A report on that study is expected, Larson says, within weeks.
Larson’s presentation and a copy of Minden’s 2021 Asset Management Plan for Water and Wastewater Systems is available to view at mindenhills.civicweb.net.
Road needs for the next decade
Michael Cullip and Mat MacLean from Tatham Engineering presented the Road Needs Study to council, following up on a similar report they presented when they were first retained by council in 2018.
“What we’ve done is look at what the different improvement strategies are,” Cullip said. According to the report, a bulk of those maintenance costs go toward either resurfacing certain roads, or completely reconstructing them.
According to Cullip, a little under half of Minden’s 278 kilometers of road will require maintenance over the next decade, totalling $29.9 million dollars, with the report itself assuming a budget of $3 million year over year.
“This is a beginning of a very long process,” Mayor Brent Devolin said to Cullip following his presentation. “It gives us some things to wrap our heads around, not only this year, but in the years to come.”
Other considerations still need to be made
In terms of the township’s asset management plans overall, including for roads, Mayor Brent Devolin described the importance of allowing space in the budget for maintaining infrastructure, especially coming out of the pandemic.
“In the post-COVID, we have housing and healthcare at the top of the pyramid,” Devolin said. “But I think that as all of this asset management rolls out, infrastructure has never come off the top five or ten [priorities for the township], but I think it’s going to jump to the top.”
Chief Administrative Officer Trisha McKibbin also reminded council of the full range of asset management plans they have yet to hear.
“We’re just talking about roads [and water and wastewater management] at this point,” McKibbin said. “So when we look at asset management, we have to fit these pieces of the puzzle into the bigger discussion as well … We’re going to be taking these pieces, putting them together, because we can’t be looking at them all in isolation. If we focus just on one, everything else is going to deteriorate”