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Saturday, April 27, 2019

SMART Looks For Municipal Funds

Grey Bruce | by Robyn Garvey  

Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit in need of new vehicles.

SMART, the Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit system is in dier need of new vehicles.

This will cost a quarter of million dollars, and SMART is looking to its member municipalities to finance it.

Brockton is wrestling with SMART’s additional capital funding request.

The 250 thousand dollars would be a shared venture between the nine member municipalities with some paying more an others less.

Brockton share of the 250 thousand dollar comes in at 33 thousand dollars.

It’s SMART’s hope that municipalities would dip into their recent windfall of Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing grant dollars that they recently received to fund this SMART capital purchase request.

Brockton received 616 thousand dollars in what it refers to as ‘windfall’ money.

But before cutting a cheque to SMART, Peabody says Council has instructed its Chief Financial Officer to prepare a report on the other demands placed on the municipality in need of this funding as well.

Peabody says Brockton isn’t saying ‘yes or no’ at this time, he says Council is somewhere in the ‘middle’.

SMART Manager Roger Cook notes that there may be additional grant dollar opportunities through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Funding as well.

He proposes splitting the capital purchases over a two year time period, to make things a little easier for municipalities and to assure that the new vehicles don't need to all be replaced all at once years from now.

SMART doesn’t have any reserve dollars for capital purchases, as the vast majority of its funding is spent on operational costs.

SMART has a fleet of 27 vehicles including 3 spares ranging in model years from 2006 to 2018.

Eight of these vehicles have over 300 thousand kilometers on them and another seven have more than 200 thousand kilometers.

Cook says keeping vehicles up to date and reliable is critical the safe transportation of SMART’s vulnerable clients.

For 2020, SMART wants to purchase 3 to 9 passenger buses at a cost of 80 thousand dollars each as well as a new 18 passenger bus at a cost of 130 thousand dollars.

Councilor Chris Oberle appreciates the challenge SMART is facing, he questions however if it is time SMART reviewed its business plan as well as the fees that is charging, as each year costs continue to rise.

His fear is that at some point, municipalities may not be able to afford to keep up with those costs.

Cook notes however that SMART’s expenses per vehicle are the second lowest in its peer group and less than half of the average of its peers.

He says the stats clearing indicate that SMART is operated very efficiently, providing a high level of service to its clients at a very low cost to the municipal partners and their taxpayers.

The rounded breakdown for SMART Capital Dollar request per municipality is as follows:

Arran-Elderslie       18 thousand
Brockton        33 thousand
Chatsworth        15 thousand
Hanover        52 thousand
Huron-Kinloss        20 thousand
Kincardine        29 thousand
Saugeen Shores    43 thousand
Southgate        10 thousand
West Grey        29 thousand

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