There's nothing new about sudden asset failures at municipal buildings, but the failure of the Seeley's Bay Community Hall holding tank is raising some questions about asset management within the Township of Leeds and Thousand Islands.
"Obviously we're going to repair it, but in the context of the asset management exercise, we're going to discover, I think, as we understand the conditions of our assets, that Seeley's Bay is a bit of a bellwether for the condition of our assets," said Coun. Mark Jamison.
While the township does have an asset management plan, it is not yet detailed enough to capture every piece of equipment within every category of assets.
"There will be ongoing work to refine the data and provide more detail, but at this time, the facilities are not broken down to that level of detail. While more refined data with better condition information could help identify this type of work ahead of time, there will always be instances where assets will fail unexpectedly," said township director of finance Kate Tindal.
According to a report to council, the hall's sanitary holding tank is failing and the township is shelling out up to $200 a week for pump-outs
"Under normal circumstances, pump-outs would occur about once a month; but of course this varies with use of the facility. In a busy season with lots of rentals and community events, we might have to pump out once a week, but this should not be the case when the building is essentially closed because of COVID-19," said Kim Goodman manager of community and business services.
The question is whether the hall, which is also home to Fire Station Two, needs a larger investment than just the emergency repair to the tank.
"I appreciate that there is some question as to whether we should be doing something with the building itself, but we still have to maintain the building regardless,” said Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.
Almost 70 years old, the Seeley's Bay Community Hall is no longer longer adequate as a fire station, according to Fire Chief Rick Lawson.
"There is the issue that the building is antiquated, and today with bigger trucks it is an issue to work in that location," said Lawson.
The building is regularly maintained and a full examination of the system has been completed, including a scan of the holding tank to look for cracks or other damage. Even a water meter was installed in the hall to measure input versus outflows and the result is that the tank appears to be compromised and is allowing groundwater to seep in, according to Goodman. The facility does not have weeping bed, just a holding tank.
"Staff are recommending an emergency repair/replacement of the tank and the addition of a secondary tank to increase overall system capacity," said Goodman in her report to council.
While council acknowledged the urgency of the work proposed, members had some objection to the word "repair."
"It should be not a repair, but should be something fresh and perhaps bigger," said Coun. Brock Gorrell.
Staff acknowledged that "repair" may be the wrong word and that a full replacement is the most likely course. The current estimate for the work is between $12,000 and $20,000, and the goal is to carry out the work as soon as possible before the ground freezes to minimize construction costs.
At this time the plan is to fund the work out of the operating budget because, according to Tindal, there is some capacity there due to COVID-19.
"Right now, because we've been so diligent with our spending, I'm proposing to fund this from operating because there is so much pressure on our reserves," said Tindal, adding that in the event the work requires more funding, she will come back to council for approval to dip into a reserve fund.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times