The Village of Ashcroft received an Honourable Mention at the 2020 Community Excellence Awards, presented by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) during its convention last week. The awards — which have been presented since 2004 — showcase municipalities and regional districts that have implemented projects and programs that demonstrate excellence in meeting the purposes of local government in B.C.
The call for submissions went out over the summer, and a record number of municipalities and regional districts submitted projects in four categories: Excellence in Governance; Excellence in Service Delivery; Excellence in Sustainability; and Excellence in Asset Management. A winner and an honourable mention were awarded in each category.
Ashcroft submitted in the last category, highlighting the “Made in Ashcroft” asset management program developed by the Village’s Chief Financial Officer, Yogi Bhalla. At a presentation to Cache Creek council at their June 22, 2020 meeting, Bhalla noted the challenges small municipalities face with asset management, particularly the high costs associated with “off the shelf” asset management programs, yearly licensing fees, and the need to hire additional IT personnel, which can easily be more than $500,000 a year. He described Jugaad Innovation, which he has developed over the past two years to provide a frugal asset management alternative for small municipalities.
The guidelines for the category stated that submissions should demonstrate “comprehensive, integrated, innovative, and effective approaches to the management of existing and new infrastructure in order to maximize benefits, reduce risk, and provide satisfactory levels of service to the community in a sustainable manner.”
In early September the Village learned that its submission had made the finals, and on Sept. 23 it was announced that Ashcroft received Honourable Mention for “Small Municipality Focused Asset Management”. The Town of Gibsons was the winner in the category.
The City of Kamloops won in the “Excellence in Governance” category, for adopting a “Let’s Talk” commitment that guided engagement with residents during COVID-19. The award recognizes decision-making processes and policies that support and encourage citizen participation, are efficient, equitable, inclusive, and transparent, and exemplify best practices in accountability, effectiveness, and long-term thinking.
The purpose of local governments in B.C. are set out in both the Community Charter and the Local Government Act and generally focus on good governance, providing services for community benefit, providing stewardship of public assets, and fostering sustainability. A press release from UBCM noted that “In all categories, winners offer a path for other local governments to follow, not only in British Columbia but around the world, making communities more efficient, healthier, and ultimately more livable.”