BSA’s initial focus for developing a stormwater management program will be placed on a thorough inspection and assessment of the condition and capacity of the existing infrastructure, and a fair and equitable assignment of rates for property owners based on impervious area. BSA staff have received training and equipment to construct a complete digital map of the system and detail system features as part of its GIS asset management program. BSA has also retained the services of a stormwater engineer/specialist from HRG Engineers to properly define system needs, allocate costs, construct a budget, evaluate rates, plan for capital investments, project long-term needs and performance, and draft credit and appeals policies for property owner. Asset management is a systematic approach to minimizing the cost of owning, operating, and maintaining infrastructure. It is about optimizing how the authority spends its budget dollars in order to make sure they are providing the largest possible return on investment.
The first step of an asset management program is to create an inventory of what stormwater facilities the city owns and document their condition. Historically, city maintenance crews have had to rely on paper maps (often dating back to the 1940s), and these maps were sometimes missing vital information. With the new digital maps, the sanitary authority will have a clear picture of where facilities are located and what condition they are in. This will allow them to determine what repairs are necessary, prioritize those repairs, direct resources where they’re needed most, track the work as it’s completed, and measure results.
Due to the tightening financial constraints under which most municipalities operate, they often take a reactive approach to budgeting for maintenance and replacement. When an asset fails, the municipality makes room in the budget to fix or replace it, but this approach is costly. Waiting till an asset fails to fix it means it must be fixed quickly – without time to search for the most cost-effective solution or find grant opportunities. Emergency repairs tend to be more expensive than projects that have been carefully planned in advance, and they can be inconvenient to system users. (For example, if a city waits until a storm sewer line breaks, it may need to close a roadway -- without warning. The break may cause flooding that damages homes or businesses.)
An asset management program identifies exactly what maintenance and repairs are necessary and which failures could be the most catastrophic. Sanitary authority officials can then target resources towards their prevention as a priority. With clear documentation of the need for a replacement project and the benefits it will provide the community, the city will be more likely to receive funding from government agencies (who are under growing pressure to ensure that the money they invest is used wisely). This agency funding can reduce the burden of repairs and replacement on the authority’s budget (and thus lower costs for city residents).
Another way the city is working to reduce the cost of stormwater for local residents and businesses is by authorizing the Bradford Sanitary Authority to engage in stormwater management activities on behalf of the city. This partnership will allow the two to share resources in order to lower costs. For example, the city can benefit from using the sanitary authority’s established billing system instead of purchasing and setting up its own. They can also utilize the sanitary authority’s maintenance equipment and share the expertise of its staff, who have been navigating complex regulations similar to those now being applied to stormwater for decades. The Bradford Sanitary Authority has the resources to maintain and improve the city’s stormwater system in a cost-effective manner, providing enhanced services while lowering costs.