August 10, 2016
Infrastructure Deficit has been defined as an estimate of the total additional investment to repair and prevent deterioration of existing municipally owned infrastructure assets. These assets can include roads, sewer systems, and water treatment plants.
The subject of Infrastructure Deficit is prominent in council chambers and parliament buildings across our country. While many community service systems were installed in the fifties, sixties and seventies, some are now showing signs of age. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation.
If you are lucky enough to have cash to buy a vehicle, you can drive it off of the lot and own it outright. Still, repairs and maintenance will be needed. These incidentals are minor, as the initial purchase was the big expense. This is not unlike a sewer treatment facility. Eventually the point will be reached when the vehicle, or municipal service, is no longer reliable and will need replacing. Unfortunately, at the same time that the vehicle needs replacing, the roof on the house is leaking and water is getting into the basement because of ineffective drain tile. Or, in terms of a community, the water treatment facility may need upgrades and sewer and water lines might be failing.
This particular family is in decent financial shape. Presently they are not carrying any debt. However, if one has an unreliable vehicle, a leaky roof, and ineffective drain tile, can it really be said that they are not in debt? Yes it can, because they don’t owe money to anyone. However, they are in a deficit situation. This family needs a reliable vehicle, a roof that does not leak, and drain tile that will keep their basement dry. They can go to the bank and apply for a loan and, if accepted, they can get to a position that they are no longer in a deficit; however they are now in debt.
How can this cycle end where, by the time these services are paid for, they won’t be back at square one again? To avoid this, careful budgeting is needed to repay the debt, maintain and repair what is currently owned, and also have a plan in place to address assets when they are used up. This is called Asset Management and it is talked about as much, and usually along with, Infrastructure Deficit.
Administration has the challenging task of navigating priorities and finding funds to address this deficit. The current sewer upgrade is reducing Chetwynd’s deficit by far more than what was borrowed. Going forward, plans are made based on priorities. Asset management is about engaging the public and communicating information about finances and assets. Based on this, we assess, plan and implement. This is by no means a small task and large amounts of money will be spent with very little to see as much of the work will be underground. Water will flow from the tap and down the drain as it always has. It is our responsibility to ensure these services are sustainable to the community forever.