Town may start saving this year to replace fleet

FORT FRANCES—Thinking ahead, Fort Frances is considering establishing a fleet replacement financing plan with the 2008 budget to start saving money now to pay for new vehicles down the road.
During a special budget meeting Monday, town council and management met to discuss the 2008 budget which, at that time, had a projected operating shortfall of $1,094,481.
However, $761,718 of that was a transfer to reserves to eventually replace town equipment.
“As administration, it’s our job to point out that our equipment is getting older. We know we can’t finance everything at once,” Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown told councillors.
“We should start putting money away into reserves to replace some of this aging equipment,” he noted.
During the 2006 budget process, Brown worked out a replacement schedule of all of the town’s vehicles, how old they are, and when they will need to replaced.
On average, the town can get 10-15 years out of a half-ton truck and 20 years out of heavy equipment.
At that time, Brown estimated it eventually would cost the town $8.4 million to replace 170 units, But nothing was done by the council of that time to put money in reserves for this purpose.
“I think, eventually, there’s going to be a catch-up day. It’s our job as administration to point this out to council,” said Brown. “There’s going to be a day of reckoning when someone’s going to have to pay for it.”
He added the town currently has several vehicles that need to be replaced.
“We want everyone to clean up their properties and we’re driving around in Fred Flintstone vehicles,” said Brown. “It’s got change. Our image has to got to be improved here.”
“It’s a shocking number but it tells me this is where we’re at if we try to start fixing it right now,” said Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig.
“Obviously our job here, as administration and council, is we want to go to a place where we’re doing things like this because it speaks to a program of good asset management.
“But we also have to be cognizant that we have to mitigate the rate shock to the taxpayer.”
While no one disagreed with the idea of establishing a fleet replacement financing plan, Mayor Roy Avis noted every piece of equipment the town has shouldn’t be included in the plan as it’s impossible for the town to play “catch-up” and still buy new equipment.
“We’ve got to get our numbers down where we can manage them,” he stressed, adding a long-term plan is necessary, but perhaps the fleet replacement schedule should only start with vehicles bought only in recent years.
“You cannot punish the taxpayers today for the wrong that was done 10-15 years ago. Our fleet has aged and they have to be replaced. So we have to come up with method in order to replace it that gives the least amount of shock to the taxpayer,” added Mayor Avis.
“So you’re thinking maybe starting now and moving ahead, rather than playing catch-up, and easing the burden along the way,” said Coun. Paul Ryan, adding that if a backhoe needed to be replaced next year, even if the fleet replacement fund couldn’t pay for the whole thing, it could cover part of it.
Brown said he never expected to see $761,718 put into reserves in this budget, but was glad to see council thinking about a fleet replacement plan.
“We’ve got to start somewhere,” he remarked.
Management agreed to draw up a fleet replacement financing schedule including all vehicles and equipment bought since 2003, and how much money should have been put away to help replace them in the future.
The schedule will be brought back to the table at the next special budget meeting slated for Monday, Jan 21.
(Fort Frances Times)