Erin starts spending its modernization grant

ERIN – The town will spend almost $200,000 – about one third of its provincial modernization and efficiency grant – on a series of studies designed to improve municipal operations.

Erin received a $602,673 grant in March, with a letter from Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, saying it is intended to help find ways to “reduce future costs through investments in projects such as service delivery reviews, development of shared services agreements and capital investments.”

With expectations of funding cuts next year, Mayor Allan Alls summed up the situation at the May 21 council meeting by saying, “The axe is about to fall.”

He said local action is needed to “demonstrate that we are trying to be more efficient and find better ways of doing business.”

The other municipalities in Wellington County have received similar modernization grants and the county received $725,000.

Erin has agreed with a plan for each lower-tier municipality to chip in $25,000, while the county will contribute $175,000, which together will fund a single study. A consultant will suggest ways to streamline the delivery of service, including possible changes to local and county responsibilities.

While some municipalities are reserving the balance of their grant until the county study is done, Erin has decided to proceed with several studies on its own, costing a total of $198,300.

“We’re one of the municipalities that is being very proactive in trying to find savings,” said CAO Nathan Hyde. “We’re on a very good trajectory, and I think this is a very good story to tell the province – we’ve already started doing these things, in advance.”

There will be a governance review, specific to the interests of the Town of Erin, at a cost of $50,000.

Hyde said this could include issues such as whether roads currently maintained by the town could be more efficiently managed by the county. It could also look at the county being responsible for water and wastewater, as currently happens under regional government.

The grant will cover the $15,300 roads operational review, which was recently presented to council. There will also now be a roads needs assessment, at a cost of $25,000, studying how money can be saved on maintenance by converting more town roads from gravel to asphalt.

“As new development comes in, we want to determine systematically which roads to switch,” said finance director Ursula D’Angelo.

An assessment of recreation facilities has already been done, but $12,000 will now be spent to assess the efficiency of operations at fire halls and town hall.

The town will spend $6,000 to update its five-year Conservation and Demand Management Plan for energy use by the provincial deadline of July 1.

This can include not only technical and equipment changes related to natural gas and electricity, but organizational and behavioural measures as well.

Supporting that effort will be an energy efficiency audit on all town-owned facilities, at a cost of $40,000.

The final project to be covered by the modernization grant is the town’s asset management plan, costing $50,000.

This will develop key performance indicators and levels of service for various infrastructure assets, including the timing of upgrades to roads, bridges and culverts.