When members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Asset Management Technical Working Group rolled into Selkirk last month on a Beaver bus, they knew they were coming to see the progress the city has made on its asset management journey.
So it wasn’t a surprise to any of them that the city’s team that is steering the Capital Asset Management Program is well organized and has successfully changed the way Selkirk manages all assets, from pipes to pavement and everything in between. But what was pleasantly surprising to the visitors, all of whom are leaders in asset management, is that Selkirk is establishing itself as a leader as well.
Selkirk establishing itself as a leader in asset management
Leanne Brannigan, Manager of Corporate Asset Management for the Region of Peel in Ontario, is on the board of Asset Management Ontario (AMONTario) and works with smaller municipalities throughout the province, helping them learn how they can improve their own asset management.
“It was wonderful to see that Selkirk is not only on a journey to set themselves apart as asset management leaders for small municipalities in asset management, but is on the road to establishing itself as a national example of how it should be done,” Brannigan said.
Selkirk has avoided some of the pitfalls others have faced when trying to improve their asset management, Brannigan said, and the city’s transformation from ’70s-era practices to a thoughtful and more informed style is one that should be copied.
“Often organizations will get stuck in the world of data and organizational silos. Selkirk is setting up cross-functional and integrated asset management teams, utilizing and developing internal expertise to sustain the momentum, integrating risk and climate factors into their analysis and is putting an amazing focus on communications with staff, council and the public,” Brannigan said.
“This is a case to show that small municipalities can do it and Selkirk is exceeding the bar. I hope to see a case study on Selkirk’s journey written up some day, as an example of how it should be done. That would be one document I would share widely.”
Keeping it green
Approximately 35 members of the FCM working group visited the site of Selkirk’s new wastewater treatment plant, currently under construction, and listened as Dan McDermid, Director of Operations, detailed how the city strove to get not only the most environmentally friendly plant, but also the most cost effective, before visiting Manitoba Avenue West, the new hospital, business park and build site of the new medical health centre.
They drove past the Gaynor Family Regional Library, learned about its green initiatives, heard the history of the Manitoba Avenue Task Force and the redevelopment of Manitoba Avenue East and the upcoming installation of pedestrian friendly, active transportation paths in the city’s downtown.
The tour ended at 200 Eaton Avenue with a viewing of the construction in progress on the fire hall expansion before the city’s capital asset management team spoke about their experiences and challenges with implementing asset management changes over the past four years.
Teamwork is the key to success
Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol was appreciative of Brannigan’s high praise, but said he’s not surprised by the results the city’s Capital Asset Management Program team – known as CAMPers – have achieved. The team has embraced the concept of asset management and is dedicated to putting in the hard work that ultimately results in longer life for city assets.
“When we embarked on this journey four years ago, one of our goals was to become a leader in the field of asset management and the fact that Manitoba’s and Canada’s leaders chose to come and see what we’ve accomplished here is a strong indication we are on the right track,” said Nicol, who represents the province on the FCM working group.
“Having these experts come to Selkirk and talk and share ideas with our team was a great opportunity for our capital asset management team to not only learn from the best, but be recognized by the best for the great work they’ve done in the city.”
The city identified the establishment of an asset management program as a key priority when it adopted its Strategic Plan. Council adopted its Capital Asset Management Strategy in 2016 with the primary goal of being fiscally responsible and extending the life of city infrastructure through educated and informed decision making.
Kevin Richter, the City’s Director of Finance, said achieving those goals is only done through teamwork, and the city has an excellent team.
“It’s about the people, we have a great team leading the Capital Asset Management Program for the city and a council that has fully supported us in this journey. We work collaboratively, drawing on our profession knowledge and experience,” Richter said.
“We knew right from the beginning that this was a project with no end date, that we would need to grow and expand our corporate knowledge and adopt best practices in asset management to be successful, that why we developed a program instead of a report. It’s critical to have this in place in order for us to develop and deliver a long-term financial strategy to fund the replacement of our aging infrastructure.”
Chris Klos, Manager of Corporate Asset Management for the City of Winnipeg, was part of the FCM Working Group that came to Selkirk and he was impressed with the city’s systematic approach to collecting and analyzing asset management and creating a long-term strategy that he says has propelled the city ‘amongst the industry leaders in asset management’.
“There is often a misconception that smaller municipalities are at a disadvantage when trying to integrate asset management into their organizations. In fact, having a smaller core team dedicated to asset management initiatives, combined with the ability to make decisions much quicker, can allow smaller municipalities to make significant progress within a shorter timeframe,” Klos said.
“Selkirk is a prime example of how a smaller municipality can effectively use asset management best practices to make better investment decision and ensure the city is capable of delivering services that meet citizen expectations.”
Bill Karsten, FCM First Vice President, said the working group was in Winnipeg for a meeting and the trip to Selkirk was definitely worthwhile.
“Along with Funding and training, knowledge sharing make up the three pillars of FCM’s asset management program. Knowing first hand how municipalities are implementing asset management into their infrastructure investment decisions goes a long way,” Karsten said.
“It can equip other municipalities with the know how and the tools to make their infrastructure dollars go further. Selkirk’s commitment to asset management can inspire other municipalities across Canada looking to build liveable and sustainable communities.”