A $50,000 grant from the Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) will help Selkirk improve its lauded asset management program by funding policy upgrades and training for staff and council.
Selkirk is one of 10 Manitoba municipalities to receive the funding under the Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP) and one of a very few that was selected in both the first and second rounds of MAMP funding.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of effective and modern infrastructure that supports safe, sustainable and healthy communities,” said Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.
“The 10 projects announced ensure Manitoba municipalities have the tools and technology necessary to make well-informed decisions for the long term, enabling them to effectively manage their core infrastructure to meet their citizens’ needs, save money, and protect the environment. Canada’s infrastructure plan is resulting in thousands of projects, creating jobs across the country and building stronger communities.”
Mayor Larry Johannson thanked the federal government and FCM and applauded the Selkirk Capital Asset Management Program team members, known as CAMPers, for developing a program that has earned praise from across the country and continues to evolve over time.
“You know when we started down this road a few years ago, it was exciting because we had faith it would be a game changer for the City of Selkirk, and it certainly has turned out that way,” Johannson said.
“Not only does the city have better information to make decisions when it comes to everything from investing in new equipment to building better roads, but our staff are being sought out by other municipalities who want to improve their systems. The value of their work is rewarded in so many other ways, including granting dollars that allow us to continue improving as we move forward.”
Sharing knowledge pays off
The city received $50,000 in the first round of funding in 2017 to integrate climate change into CAMP.
More than 120 Canadian municipalities applied for the second round of funding, and though priority was given to those who didn’t receive first round funding, Selkirk was selected again because of its distinctive applications and its proven ability to share with others.
“When the FCM was looking at second round applicants they took into consideration how likely it was that the project would be useful to other municipalities, or how the applicant’s success could help inform other municipalities’ programs or improve their practices, and both components of our grant application are somewhat unique,” said Duane Nicol, CAO for the city.
“All of the policies and procedures we’ve made we’ve put on our website and made available for anyone to use and borrow, and we’ve encourage other municipalities to use them.”
Megan Jakilazek, the city’s Asset Management/GIS Technician, said half of the grant money will be used to update existing policies and procedures and add more assets to the program.
“We’re improving our asset management program based on what we’ve learned in the last four or five years. We’ve been able to identify how we can do it better based on increasing knowledge in asset management in our own organization and participating in groups like CNAM (Canadian Network of Asset Managers) and having those asset management relationships,” Jakilazek said.
“In addition to improving the existing service areas in our asset management program, we’re going to be adding our parks and recreation assets, which are part of Phase 2 of the development of our program.”
Well-trained for informed decision making
The other half of the funding will be used to develop the city’s own asset management training that will be tailored to individual staff member’s needs.
“By developing our own asset management training we can train our own city staff based on what their roles are in asset management and the contribution that their positions play to our program,” Jakilazek said.
“The training will be really specific – if you’re front line staff you have a different role than if you’re a management member or a director. We’re going to be developing our own in house training to provide knowledge to our city staff, on not only our program but the importance of asset management practices as a whole and how, especially for front line workers, collecting information and data appropriately, is what their role is and that’s really going to be how our program continues to strengthen.”
It’s important also that city employees know why they’re being asked to work differently and to track information in a certain way.
“Once we take the time and show staff and help them understand why it’s valuable and how it’s informing the decisions that we make in terms of investments, we’re finding that it actually improves the quality of the data that they’re bringing back and they’re even finding opportunities to make suggestions to us on how we can improve our program or what we should be considering,” Nicol said.
“If we give everyone that base knowledge of what the program is and what asset management is, we’re engaging the minds of all of our staff and able to use all of their skill sets and their ideas and thoughts in making our program better.”
A training module for councillors will also be developed.
“It’s part of our asset management bylaw that council has a responsibility to make sure it’s educating itself, and each member of council receives orientation and ongoing training to better use asset management from a governance standpoint,” Nicol said.
Paving the way
Selkirk’s asset management bylaw was the first ever drafted in Canada, and Nicol said other municipalities have used it as a template for crafting their own. The city’s approach was that asset management is built into the way the city operates.
“Rather than look at trying to build a plan or a snapshot of asset management we’ve approached it from building it as a program, as it’s ingrained in the way we do business at the City of Selkirk,” he said.
“A big component of that is making sure that our program is resilient to people changing, so whether it be council, management, directors or staff, making sure that there’s a way to maintain the program even as people move on in their career, we can still move forward and collect the right information and make good asset management decisions.”
Jakilazek said the city is taking a lead role in training.
“There’s not a whole lot of municipalities that have multi-tiered, internal, focused training programs in place and our goal would be to make that available so other municipalities can use it,” she said.
Jakilazek is working with a consultant to develop the training program, which she expects the city will begin to roll out this fall. Staff members have already spent in excess of 200 hours updating policies which are being put on the website as they are completed.
Nicol said the grant covers staff time spent updating, something most grants don’t do.
“This program allows you to invest in yourself, build internal capacity by paying for staff time. So it’s paying for staff time to help us develop our own policies. It’s costs we would have incurred anyway, and that’s a real benefit to the city, because we’re saving dollars.”
Improving its asset management practices aligns with Priority 3 of the city’s strategic plan that addresses the need for substantial capital investments in the years ahead. It also hits Priority 4 that calls for the city to strive for the best return from municipal investments and operations through more active management of capital assets and continued improvements in efficiency and convenience.