Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The 2021 Corporate State of Infrastructure Report offers insight into York Region’s spending and the allocation of your property tax dollars.
The report reveals that in 2021, 89 per cent of all regional assets were considered in fair to very good condition, up from 88 per cent in 2020.
The 13 infrastructure service areas reviewed each year are wastewater, roads, water, transit, housing, property services, forestry, York Regional Police, waste management, information technology (IT), YorkNet (fibre networks), paramedic services, and senior services.
“Managing Regional assets in a responsible and sustainable way ensures services continue to be delivered in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner, both today and into the future,” said Wayne Emmerson, chairman and CEO of York Region.
The region’s asset management practice ensures financially sustainable management of assets by balancing their cost, risk, and performance to achieve their optimal value. The reporting process must follow specific legislative requirements while ensuring accountability and transparency.
Each service area is assessed based on a series of criteria, including condition and age, performance, and service levels for each asset category. Road services, for example, have multiple categories, including pavement on different road types, stormwater structures (retaining walls and culverts), lighting, traffic signals, signs, and bridges.
Assessment criteria are applied to all assets within each category and summarized to determine the overall service area grade. Assets listed in very poor condition get prioritized for action.
“Maintaining assets in a state of good repair is a financially sustainable way to manage the lifecycle of infrastructure,” said City of Vaughan Regional Councillor Mario Ferri, chair of environmental services.
“The same way you perform routine maintenance on your car to prevent significant issues later, we spend the right amount of capital dollars on asset management to lower the risk of service disruption and decrease the cost of sustaining regional infrastructure over time,” he added.
In a memo to the York Region Committee of the Whole members regarding the 2021 Corporate State of Infrastructure Report, Erin Mahoney, commissioner of Public Works for York Region, referred to the February 2020 joint report by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) entitled The Cost of Climate Adaptation at the Local Level.
The report suggests that investments in infrastructure resiliency can have a return on investment of $6 in future averted losses for every $1 spent proactively.
“York Region’s Climate Change Action Plan and the Corporate Asset Management Plan combined with regional programs focused on infrastructure management business continuity plans, and a climate change risk assessment (for transportation, water, and wastewater) demonstrate how staff are advancing assessments of infrastructure resiliency to climate change,” she stated in the memo.
The Corporate State of Infrastructure Report also confirmed that the replacement value of regionally owned and operated infrastructure assets increased to $19 billion, a $2 billion increase over 2020. Rising inflation and the addition of new assets through completed capital projects contributed to the increase.
Some key spending highlights include a $217 million increase over 2020 to support housing services. A 21.7 per cent inflationary adjustment to replacement values and construction price increases contributed to this increase.
$51.5 million was spent on new, replaced, and rehabilitated road assets, including over 250 lane kilometres of road maintenance and traffic control system upgrades.
The transit services portfolio saw an increase of about $25 million. Adding more electric buses and rehabilitation of existing fleet vehicles accounted for this increase, while the decommissioning of fleet vehicles valued at $18.6 million offset the increase.
The IT services portfolio decreased by $8.5 million. Decommissioning of $20 million in assets, including servers and storage hardware, with the IT sector transitioning to more software service cloud-based networks. Adding new and updated network and data centre infrastructure assets offset the decommissioning of assets by $11.5 million.
York Region tracks, monitors, and reports asset condition and assesses reserves annually.
Photo: In 2021, York Region’s forestry services added 1,340 street trees to its inventory, while road services spent $51.5 million on new, replaced, and rehabilitated assets.