Erin aims to catch up on capital project spending

ERIN – Town council has approved a list of capital project priorities for the next four years.

At its Nov. 5 meeting, council also approved an updated asset management plan (AMP) presented by the consulting firm PSD, which recommends a 1.2 per cent tax increase each year for the next 20 years, dedicated solely to catching up on the replacement of aging infrastructure.

“The town is currently underfunding asset replacements annually by $2 million,” said finance director Ursula D’Angelo.

While most of the town’s infrastructure is rated as good or very good, 25% is rated as poor or very poor. Some 7% of assets remain in operation beyond their established useful life, and an additional 13% will reach the end of their useful life in the next five years.

The town has been investing 95% of the $621,000 needed on average for water service projects each year, but only 44% ($1.6 million) of the average $3.6 million needed annually to maintain other assets.

The total replacement cost of town assets is about $115 million.

In addition to dedicated taxation, PSD recommends that when debt costs drop, the savings should be allocated to infrastructure, along with any gas tax and other grant revenue, and that an inflation index be applied to infrastructure budgets.

Even with those measures, additional revenues may be needed to ease existing infrastructure backlogs. D’Angelo noted that dams, a potential source of major expense, are not included in the asset list, but will be in the next update.

Total capital requests from town departments for 2020 is $2,354,800, with similar amounts of more than $2 million in each of the following three years. Actual spending still requires approval in each year’s budget.

The prioritization is a new part of the process, designed to create “priority-driven” capital budgets, said D’Angelo.

It includes a 10-year listing of work projected for all of the town’s buildings, bridges and culverts. There are also building condition assessment reports and energy audits.

“Staff reviewed the recommendations in these reports and prioritized them based on urgency, benefit to the community and grant funding eligibility,” said D’Angelo.

“The estimates contained in the building condition assessment reports were revised by staff to market values and reflected in the 10-year capital summaries.”

For administration, the report recommends $80,000 for an electronic data records management system as a priority in 2020.

Clerk Lisa Campion said it would “streamline” record-keeping, making information easier to retrieve.

“It will have a direct impact upon the efficiency of staff, able to  access records quicker, better, able to find them instead of going into the basement and looking through boxes,” said CAO Nathan Hyde.

“It’s a comprehensive system that applies to every aspect of the corporation. Everything will be centralized with different access points.”

“You will recall, we had some trouble finding records recently,” said Mayor Allan Alls, apparently in reference to a Freedom of Information request from the Advertiser regarding severance payments.

For fire and emergency services, the major capital request in 2020 is $450,000, for replacement of a 1990 tanker truck. The major capital request in 2020 for the roads department is $600,000 for replacement of a culvert on Sideroad 24 (Station Street).

In recreation, $635,000 is requested for improvements to the Erin Community Centre, plus $126,500 for the Hillsburgh Community Centre.

The water department is looking to spend $72,000 on energy efficiency upgrades and $45,000 to extend the life of water equipment.