As North Bay City Council recently approved the City of North Bay's Asset Management Policy, several members commented on the financial realities facing the municipality.
Coun. Mark King led the discussion about the asset plan that was provincially legislated to be in place by July 1.
"This was a real eye-opener for me, how the asset management plan will affect future terms of council," said King. "I found it quite shocking to recognize that there was a $27.4 million shortfall — and that only applies to bridges, culverts, roads, stormwater, wastewater and water."
King was referring to the City of North Bay's 112-page Corporate Asset Management Plan 2022 that "estimated replacement cost of the City’s core assets is $2.1 billion which requires $49 million in annual life cycle investments. The City of North Bay is planning to invest on average $21.6 million annually; thereby, leaving an annual funding shortfall of $27.4 million."
Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch agreed "this is a $27.4 million annual shortfall which is $5 million more than the last time we did infrastructure studies. Even though we've been trying to invest more in our capital. We just can't keep up. It takes continued advocacy with the provincial and federal governments to ensure that we keep getting as much infrastructure money as possible."
At the committee level, King called the report "startling," and asked Chief Financial Officer Margaret Karpenko if the deadline for the next phase of the legislated asset reports — in 2024 —is the target "to balance the capital outlay and to find enough money somewhere to make up the $27.4 million [annual shortfall]?"
"That's what the legislation would like us to do but I don't know if that's affordable to do, depending on how things change," responded Karpenko, who elaborated on the asset funding shortfall in the video below:
Coun. Ed Valenti wondered about additional options for roads.
"I know Timmins and Sudbury have acquired Python road patching systems. It's not a cheap item but it certainly would extend our roads and make our $27.4 million a little more palatable to achieve to close that gap."
In that public meeting earlier in June, Kevin Vescio, corporate asset manager for the City of North Bay advised the public's expectations of service levels would help inform such decisions.
According to the plan's accompanying report, "The old approach of 'worst first' is being replaced with a more proactive approach focused on the rehabilitation within windows of opportunity and combined reconstruction projects...and reflects on the current and desired condition of core infrastructure assets, levels of service, optimal asset management, and financial strategies, all based on the infrastructure information and data currently available for the City of North Bay's core assets."
"The basics of the plan are the inventory of assets, current levels of service that we provide to the public, and the cost to maintain those services," noted Vescio and added the end result is a plan that "provides some direction as we move forward."
Coun. Bill Vrebosch observed "this study makes us proactive instead of reactive. We now have a snapshot of all our assets. We didn't expect to break even, we knew there was going to be a deficit but now we've got a plan to close that gap a little bit. If we can show that we're closing the gap, the government is going to come along with us. They made a statement: no plan, no grants."
"If we come down to our last dollar, what are we going to spend it on? We should know that answer," Vescio observed. "That's what asset management really answers."