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Dec 2020 | November - December Issue

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

 

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

 

Determining the needs and wants of your customers, constituents, or residents is tricky enough in “normal” times. During a drawn-out global pandemic, opinions are inflammatory, genuine in-person engagement is hampered, and the needs of one group may be diametrically opposed to the needs of another group. Add to that the challenges of constrained budgets and uncertainty surrounding the duration of the pandemic and you have a recipe for headache-inducing long-term planning. 
 
Interestingly, the practice of infrastructure asset management offers lessons in determining levels of service in an environment of competing risks, fiscal limitation, and political uncertainty. In this issue’s article Understanding Municipal Levels of Service, the authors describe levels of service as a framework to assess how well you are meeting the needs of your customers within budgetary and other constraints. “Think of levels of service as a spinning top that is kept in stable motion by three equidistant points: the cost, performance, and risk.” This delicate balance is being tested during the pandemic, with asset managers having to shift priorities and recalculate risk with each change in public health orders and each new announcement related to federal or provincial funding for infrastructure. 
 
The impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure management and planning has not been uniform across the country or across local governments. While the alarming deficits of larger municipalities, especially those with transit systems, were well publicized in the lead-up to the federal government announcing much needed COVID-19 relief funds, the experience of smaller municipalities in Canada has been lesser known. In The Bigger Picture, PSD’s Sloane Sweazey interviewed municipal officials and managers from small municipalities across Canada, finding that the pandemic has forced lower levels of service on these communities, resulting in a less dire fiscal situation than anticipated. Although these small municipalities are able to balance their budgets with some additional help from senior levels of government, the impact of closed facilities and reduced service is taking its toll. Steven Hart, CAO of Oromocto New Brunswick, states “It’s a constant struggle to balance the legal and moral obligations regarding public health guidelines with the constantly evolving demands of the citizens that rightly want their family to have access to facilities.”
 
Balancing cost, performance, and risk has never been more challenging for many local governments, but defining levels of service (LOS) and developing a framework to measure and report on LOS has never been more important. Since the publication of the very first issue of the Public Sector Digest in 2003, the Digest has offered “Intelligence for the Public Sector”, as our tagline suggests. But as our company evolved into a leading software and consulting firm for enterprise asset management and budgeting, the Digest transformed into a collection of innovative case studies and proven strategies for improvement in the same subject matter areas. In this issue alone, you’ll find must-read case studies on Finding the Right Fit for Asset Management in San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency, Advancing Asset Management Through Data Improvements in the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex, and Establishing Asset Management Governance and an Asset Inventory in the Town of Lamont. Our hope is that these stories and strategies can help your team better define levels of service and in turn, deliver the services that are needed most during this time of great fiscal, political and social pressure.  

 

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest