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Plan pushed through to meet provincial requirements

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Cutting it close, city council has approved a new plan in order to meet requirements from the provincial government to remain eligible for gas tax funding.

The Asset Management Plan is a look at nearly all the physical assets the city owns, their value, and how much money it’s going to take in the years to come to maintain them.

It’s thought these plans, now a provincial requirement for all municipalities, will be a resource for the province to use when doling out infrastructure dollars.

Including an inventory of everything from land, buildings, machinery and equipment, to vehicles, furniture, trails and linear assets, the combined value reaches over $930 million.

Divided into classes, the city’s linear assets, which includes things like roads, sidewalks, storm sewers and bridges, account for almost half of the city’s assets at approximately $450.9 million. Buildings account for around $243 million while land sits at $133 million.

The plan lays out criteria for lifecycle management of these items, looking at the maintenance, operational, renewal and replacement costs. In general, the report states the city’s assets are considered to be “moderately new” with a consumption rate of 39.1 per cent in 2015, a rate that is calculated by dividing the total accumulated amortization of the city’s assets over the total cost of those items.

However, due to a funding shortfall caused by the fact that capital program funding only partially meets the needs for capital infrastructure, it was from this plan that staff recommended to implement a one-per-cent tax levy increase solely dedicated to infrastructure, something council has committed to discussing at budget deliberations this month.

In developing the 2015 capital budget, an estimated infrastructure gap of $212 million was identified. In the city’s financial strategy, approved in 2015, it was noted the Asset Management Plan would “analyze this significant gap and provide a framework for effectively managing the city’s infrastructure asset.”

And while the document includes the needed information to meet the provincial requirements of an asset management plan, there are still gaps, including the fact that not all assets are currently recorded, the operating and maintenance costs of assets were not included in the plan, nor were revenues. The plan also does not include any concrete methods for dealing with the city’s aging infrastructure. According to this year’s budget, it’s estimated $464 million will be required to address infrastructure needs over the next nine years.

“It seems like we don’t have very much time if we wanted to add or change or get more information,” said Councillor Amy McQuaid-England at a meeting of council convened to vote on the new plan.

“Certainly, the timeline has been somewhat extended,” said Jag Sharma, the city manager, noting that despite the short notice, the plan will continue to be a “living document.”

“What is before you will continue to evolve as we move through the years and it will significantly improve,” he said, adding the plan in its current form is a good “starting point.”

The plan is a shift from the city’s previous way of managing assets, which was generally the responsibility of each department.

“We’ve done things a certain way for quite a while,” Sharma says.

For Councillor Bob Chapman, for such a big step, this is a successful beginning.

“I think this is a very good start for the very first time,” he said.