Local Government - Municipal Council - 2021 Q2 Report

Message from Norfolk Treherne Municipal Council

Office Accessibility   The MNT office will be reopening to the public on Monday, July 19th, 2021.  Council meetings will also reopen, but space will be limited due to ongoing social distancing requirements.  Attendance is still encouraged via Zoom.  Please contact the CAO (204-723-2044 ext 2224 or email cao@Treherne.ca) for further information to attend virtually.

Staffing Changes   In June we said “farewell and good luck” to Christi VanDenBussche who has moved on to other employment.  This month we have welcomed Ashley Birkinshaw as our new Office Clerk and Susanne Fortin as our new Financial Assistant.

Budget 2021   The 2021 budget process is complete. At the May 11 meeting, Council did third reading of the 2021 budget which passed this document. Subsequently, additional funding requirements have been identified: the rink refrigeration system and a replacement vehicle for the MNT Public Works fleet. This year, Council created a reserve dedicated to fleet vehicle replacement and put $40,000 into it, intending to replace vehicles on a rotating basis as economically feasible. A reserve was also created for replacement of the fire trucks. Funding these reserves ensures that the money will be available when Public Works vehicles or fire trucks require replacement.

MNT Long Term Financial Strategy   Council has discussed long term financial strategy for large capital cost items. Examples of large capital cost items include a bridge or a fire truck. Interest rates are at a historical low at this time. The time to do large infrastructure projects is now, while the cost of borrowing is so low. This is a very good reason to move forward with both the Rathwell sewer system and the Bosc Bridge. Council therefore decided to borrow the required funds for these projects and retain reserves, as a hedge against increased interest rates.

Community Economic Development   Council has started the process of attracting a wind farm to our community. The success of this project is not dependent on receiving funding from other entities. A wind farm is a long term, low cost project that will utilize a readily available community resource to diversify our community economy: increasing the municipal assessment value, providing lease payments to residents who approve a turbine on their property, and stimulating economic activity in the municipality.  The process has many opportunities for community consultation as the project proceeds.

Community Financial Concerns   During discussion of the Bosc Bridge replacement project, concerns were raised regarding financial ability to sustain specific purchases. Some Items mentioned were:

  • Grader Replacement   Council has a specific reserve (savings fund) for grader replacement on a 5 year rotation plan.
  • Fire Pumpers Replacement   This Provincially mandated expense has been ignored in the past. Your Council has started a reserve to save for these replacements as part of the MNT long term financial strategy.
  • Rathwell Sewer Construction   MNT has obtained a $1,000,000 (50%) grant for this project (estimated at a total cost maximum of $2,000,000). The remaining 50% will be financed through a borrowing bylaw for which only roll numbers in Rathwell will pay.
  • Unexpected Large Expenses   MNT is very well positioned to cope with unbudgeted large expenses. The Municipality currently has an Authorized Debt to Municipal Assessment Ratio of 1.27% and a Debt Charge to Current Revenue Ratio of 4.86%, which are well under the Municipal Board’s Borrowing Guidelines of 7% and 20% respectively. MNT has a funded flexible reserve structure that can cope with unusual expenses on an annual basis. 

Treherne Water Quality   Work continues on the Treherne Water Quality Improvement project. Control of the manganese treatment chemical was poor in May due to instrumentation issues which led to overfeeding of chemical. Too much chemical creates pink water, and too little chemical creates brown water.

Brenner Consulting has been hired to review the operation of the MNT water treatment plants. Bill Brenner has operated water and waste water systems and holds all applicable water and wastewater qualifications. All aspects of operation will be evaluated.

All apparatus required for the “Best Practices” distribution system seasonal flush have been received, and training for use of the new apparatus has been completed. The seasonal flush was delayed until Mr. Brenner had visited the plants.

 MNT Vehicle Fleet This quarter MNT took delivery of two new vehicles for the fleet. The first was a one ton truck which replaced the one written off in a previous collision. Council considered the need for this vehicle before deciding to replace it. The old box was unusable, but the hydraulic lift system was salvageable. The total cost of this vehicle was $65,000.  The second vehicle was a standard cab pickup truck which replaced the Water Treatment Plant truck. With 275,000 km on the odometer, this vehicle was rusty and unexpectedly needed about $5,800 in mechanical repairs. The total cost of the new pickup was $50,000 Funding for both vehicles came from the replacement reserves, which are created and replenished with monies collected from the General Municipal Levy. Council aims to adopt a lowest life cycle cost strategy for the fleet and to evaluate the type and number of vehicles actually needed in order to maintain the existing level of service.

Rathwell Sewer   The environmental review process remains the next step for the Rathwell low pressure sewer. The draft preliminary design of the lagoon system has been approved, and acquisition of land is in progress. It is hoped that annual operating cost may be lowered due to natural retention of phosphorus in the lagoon discharge channel.  The Environmental Proposal has been submitted to the Province and is currently being circulated through various departments, with comments to be submitted by August 1st, 2021.  Once approval has been received, tenders for the work on the lagoon will be issued, with construction starting in late 2021 or early 2022.  In the meantime, design work is taking place for the sewer lines within the community.

MNT Utility Funding Grant   MNT has obtained a funding grant from the Manitoba Water Services Board (MWSB) to enable evaluation and potential construction of needed municipal infrastructure. The total project amount is $220,000, of which the MWSB pays $110,000. Projects to be evaluated relate to maintenance and upgrades of the municipal water systems in Rathwell and Lavenham, with evaluations to be done over the next year. As with previous water projects, it is contemplated that the Federal gas tax grant will be the source of funding.

Fibre Optics Internet   The Westman Communications fibre optics system, which is supplying world class internet to Rathwell and Treherne, is virtually complete.  Council approved the first 50% payment of the municipal cost for this project.  A municipal cost of $172,000 for the installation of this project was negotiated with Westman Communications. MNT funded this infrastructure expense through the Community Development Initiative Grant. The total remaining cost of the project, estimated in excess of $2,000,000, was paid by Westman. Westman will pay ongoing annual taxes to MNT for the installation and will be a positive contributor to our community.

Lavenham is still in progress. The number of expressions of interest received from Lavenham residents did not meet target, so Council reluctantly postponed fibre installation in Lavenham for the time being. When Covid restrictions permit, there will be an open house in Lavenham to accurately inform residents of the advantages and cost savings of a fibre optics internet network.

 Rural Wireless   Xplornet is continuing with their plans to upgrade to Ericsson 5G technology all of their wireless internet towers. On May 13, Xplornet signed a preliminary agreement with the Province of Manitoba to use the Manitoba Hydro fibre optics network. Negotiations are taking place to determine the extent to which this resource will be utilized by Xplornet. Hope is that mobility internet will also be offered by Xplornet, but the situation is in transition at at this time. A new foundation structure was recently installed at the Notre Dame tower location, and a permit application to upgrade the Treherne tower has been received.

Bosc Bridge   The borrowing bylaw for the Bosc Bridge passed first reading on May 11. Borrowing bylaws must be approved by the Manitoba Municipal Board (MMB). Subsequent to a conference call between MMB members and MNT Council members, both for and against the project, the order approving the bylaw was received from the MMB in late June. The order stated “The Board is satisfied that the Bosc Bridge is needed and that it is expedient to proceed with the project.” and also “The Board finds the bylaw is reasonable.”  The design is almost finalized. The proposed bridge will be of steel construction, 24 feet wide with the lowest legal railings and capable of carrying a full highway load.  Anticipated service life of the bridge is a minimum of 75 years, which works out to an annual cost of about $12,500.   As per our Purchasing and Procurement Policy, a Request for Quotation will be issued to obtain the best pricing prior to the project being awarded. Preliminary numbers indicate a finished price below the maximum borrowing bylaw amount.

South Central Gas   The GPSG group continued to attempt to meet with Provincial MLAs this quarter with no success. Clarification is being requested for portions of the letter that stated there would be no Provincial approval for ISIP funding. In June the group decided to attempt to meet the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) funding minimum cost ceiling for CIB project approval which is $100,000,000. CIB does not give grants, but it is hoped that the required South Central Gas project grant ($40,000,000) may somehow be facilitated by the CIB if the GPSG can raise the project cost sufficiently.

H Line Drainage Project   Construction of the H Line drainage project was in progress at the end of June. The delay in starting was caused by required buried line locates not being available when needed.

Boyne River Flow Improvement Initiative   Three blockages were removed from the Boyne River early this quarter. More work is being scheduled to keep the channel clear where blockages affect agricultural land.

Council hopes that all residents will choose to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Community wide vaccinations will create the “herd Immunity effect” necessary to slow the transmission rate. The new variants have very high transmission rates, so residents are encouraged to meet or exceed the intent of all provincial Covid-19 guidelines at all times.

Stay safe.

 

Reeve                          Will Eert

Deputy Reeve              Robert Davy

Councilors                   Ryan Gaultier, Gilles Guertin, Albert Lesage, Larry Marlatt and Steve Nicholson

 

July 2021