Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council has a special meeting Thursday, May 30 at 1 p.m. It will be held at the Orillia Waterfront Centre at the Port of Orillia. The purpose is for council to hear from staff about the City’s asset management plan and to get updates on what state various council priorities are in. a third item is updates about department activities, for which there is no report in the agenda and is stated to be a verbal update.

Asset management has been the rage in the corporate world for about 15 years. It’s the exercise of determining what the cost and benefits of things (and sometimes ideas) are over long periods of time.

In the report staff state the replacement value of all assets owned by the City is $2.06 billion. This includes roads, the pipes under the roads, rolling stock, facilities, parks computers, and basically everything down to paper clips.

Municipalities were required to come up with documented plans by 2022 under the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act of2015 – Ontario Regulation 588/17: Asset Management Planning For Municipal Infrastructure.

Average age of assets by category compared to expected useful life.

Staff have determined 72% of all assets are in fair to very good condition. So, in a way this taking stock is showing council where to concentrate spending sooner than later because the conditions include longevity and usefulness of each asset. Staff also note that the asset management is more a record of what is now and its worth to the City down the road, which in turn informs the 10-year capital spending plan (forecast) which is mainly a time to replace plan and also a schedule for maintenance and upgrading of facilities (i.e. new roof, repaving vs. rebuilding roads, etc.).

Asset management also takes into account the cost of regular maintenance and operating costs along with the current cost for replacement, or purchase price.

The wild card is climate change. While some people still have their heads in the sand, staff and those who have to deal with the current and projected consequences are being realistic.

Staff are telling council the questions around water quality have to be paid close attention. Having facilities to meet the demand for water as each month passes into record books as hottest on record needs to on the radar. That’s just one area affected. Staff also are saying maintenance costs for some assets may be higher as weather events become more severe (i.e. clean up and repair). They are also saying they expect more frequent and longer disruptions of some services because of severe weather.

Staff say, not directly, it’s hard to know exactly how much climate change will affect their asset management plan, but where they have good data or experience it’s been included in the valuations.

The affect on the 10-year capital plan to keep up with current service levels is capital spending needs to be $37.8 million annually. This does not include capital projects for new things, so repairing the 10th worst road in Ontario (Laclie Street) falls into that sum and building a transit hub does not because it doesn’t exist yet.

The good news is the City is already contributing and plans to contribute $39 million annually to the 10-year capital plan. One could think of it as planning for the cost of things to go up and being prepared.

Council Priorities Update

Council set 4 areas of priority to work on during their term when they took office. They are:

  • physician recruitment, housing, investing in improving roads infrastructure and services, protecting the City’s natural beauty and implementing the climate change action plan.
  • Helping the most vulnerable (homelessness, mental health and the opioid crisis).
  • Improving community participation/engagement through equity, diversity, inclusion and truth and reconciliation.
  • Business retention and expansion and arts and culture.

Interestingly, staff included housing actions council has taken as four of the eight actions taken under the first bullet point so far. They are, establishing a working relationship with the county on affordable housing, hiring a housing coordinator, increasing the annual reserve contribution from $100,000  to $200,000, and awarding $125,000 in grants to affordable housing projects.

Laclie Street

Other things they have done under the first bullet is to double the annual budget for improving roads and sidewalks to $3 million annually and getting on with the next phase of rebuilding Laclie Street. They also adopted a climate change action plan.

The latter has obviously been a high priority because that one point has had the most action taken since council took office (though some, like developing the plan itself were initiated by the previous council). Those actions are:

• approved the creation and hiring a climate change action plan coordinator position.

• approved sustainable environmental procurement policy project

• approved Orillia city centre building automation system

• approved more water bottle filling stations at City facilities

• approved greenhouse gas facility audits and condition assessments

• approved flood plain mapping project

• provided funding for Sustainable Orillia

• approved transit electrification and zero emission study

The second bullet point include housing action holdovers already mentioned (increasing reserve contributions, working with county, hiring a coordinator) and adds funding for an overnight warming centre, creating an opioid task force, seniors transit discounts and free student transit passes, creating a financial assistance program for recreation, creating temporary housing on West Street and partnering with Lakehead University to come up with a poverty reduction strategy.

Remodelling council chambers counts under the third bullet, as does making changes to the City’s website and putting access to some services online, as well as having longer opening hours. Making September 30 a statutory holiday for a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and participating in a training course called the Indigenous Colonial Exercise are also part of this priority.

Under the economic development bullet, staff think establishing an economic development working group was so important they listed it twice. Maybe more significant is approving a $500,000 three-year budget for the new Innovation Collective, or maybe its approving mobile ice cream trucks and/or helping some stellar employers by making “amendments to the City’s by-law to open the doors for more ride-sharing opportunities.”

Also falling in the list is committing $130,000 over five years to the Mariposa Folk Festival, and creating a Lightfoot Museum working group.

Council is not expected to make any decisions during this meeting since only updates of progress by staff are the reasons for meeting.

Council meetings are open to the public.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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