The Village of Dunnottar, known simply as the Village, is a small municipality on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. Encompassing the towns of Ponemah, Whytewold and Matlock, it has 763 permanent residents and an influx of seasonal cottagers.

It was an FCM asset management seminar that first sold the Village on the need for an asset management plan, as a way to coordinate all its information about asset acquisition, maintenance, replacement and disposal. The plan would also address risk management and help the Village meet provincial funding requirements.

A grant from FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP) allowed Dunnottar to collect data and conduct a risk assessment on existing assets, and formalize its asset management plan and policy. As of September 2021, MAMP has approved 47 asset management grants for local governments in Manitoba and has funded training through partner organizations to more than 125.

Highlights

  • A comprehensive asset management plan that was the impetus for a new 10-year capital budget, both of which have been adopted by Council
  • A funded asset management strategy
  • A cross-functional asset management team, comprised of three administration and three public works employees
  • Greater appreciation of the value of formal asset management and long-term financial planning

The challenge

The Village had a lot of information about its assets, but it was scattered in many locations—including in people’s heads. The challenge was to gather, quantify and document the data into a central, accessible registry.

Approach

The Village hired a contractor who rode through the municipality, on a bicycle, documenting everything from buildings to stop signs. She also worked closely with the foreman, the accounting team, and others. The team learned from what was already available and undertook NAMS Canada training, subsidized by FCM through MAMP. NAMS coursework, offered over eight weeks, teaches asset management basics and helps participants create an asset management plan. The Village also purchased software to link asset management and financial information, and used photo editing software to map asset locations and produce a helpful visual aid.

MAMP’s Asset Management Readiness Scale (AMRS) is a tool that helps municipalities determine their competencies related to asset management. The Village used the AMRS to focus its efforts.

There were few barriers. Some initial hesitation that came from not understanding the need for a formal asset management plan was overcome with discussion and training.

Results

The Village’s asset management plan groups all of its assets into nine categories:

  • Equipment including vehicles and machinery
  • Buildings
  • Land
  • Roads and culverts
  • Recreation and tourism assets
  • Shoreline erosion
  • Signage
  • Waste disposal grounds
  • Utilities: Water and wastewater

It then goes on to answer the questions “What do we own, what is it worth, what condition is it in, what do we need to replace and what funds do we have?” in each category.

Along with the plan, the Village also adopted a 10-year capital budget to make it easier for Council to target savings for future capital purchases and projects.

“Council is using this precise, organized inventory of our assets to set policy and make budget decisions. In fact, our new 10-year capital budget is more robust and focused because it is based on the plan. The budget and the plan give us confidence that we will be able to sustain the level of services our residents expect.”

– Janice Thevenot, CAO, Village of Dunnottar

The Village made progress in the planning and decision-making competency of the AMRS (which focuses on standardized documentation and planning), by:

  • Developing a consistent approach to asset planning and aligning its priorities with municipal goals and objectives
  • Considering short- and long-term issues and priorities, needs forecasting and risk management strategies
  • Using an annual, a five-year and the new 10-year financial plan and budget to identify risks associated with investment gaps

It also developed its competencies related to policy and governance, and people and leadership.

A maintenance worker works under the hood of an old public works truck in a parking lot surrounded by trees.
Although 40 years old and past its life expectancy, this truck is still a capable and reliable asset to the Village through sound asset management practices.

Benefits

  • Council discussions about repair vs replacement of assets are more streamlined.
  • Council now regularly applies asset management principles to its planning and budgeting cycles.
  • Corporate knowledge is retained in the plan, reducing concerns about employee turnover and making it easier to bring new staff up to speed.
  • The project has sparked a more robust culture of knowledge sharing within the workplace.

What they learned

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Research other plans and policies, especially for areas of a similar size and infrastructure. A strong knowledge base makes it easier to develop initial guidelines and expected outcomes, and clarify the data collection and presentation process. The team used templates, condition rating systems, and even policy wording from other municipalities, citing in particular Thunder Bay’s asset management plan and the templates in the province of Alberta’s Getting started: toolkit user guide. This approach saved time and money and stimulated their ideas on how to best meet the local needs.

One step at a time. Asset management planning can be overwhelming, especially for smaller municipalities. The team started with the registry and found that every step taken to expand the information base led to greater detail, much more than was first anticipated.

Talk with other departments. Most departments—public works, administration, finance—have data and reports that contain valuable information about major assets. By using already available data, the team reduced project costs and shortened timelines.

Next steps

The Village continues to refine its asset management plan—a current goal is to include natural assets—and is looking forward to reaching the maintenance phase. It will also be conducting community consultations to build awareness of the plan.

The Village of Dunnottar knows asset management is about the future, and this insight will help sustain its services now and for years to come.

Contact

Janice Thevenot
CAO, Village of Dunnottar

Sarah Palson
Assistant CAO, Village of Dunnottar

Related resources

  • Contact the Village for a copy of their asset management plan, asset management policy, and their quick guide to creating an asset management plan
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