It used to take weeks for the City of Toronto to figure out the cause of infrastructure problems such as sewer connection blockages.
Today it takes only a few days — an advance Phil Dwyer, an area manager in the water and wastewater division at the City of Toronto, attributes to his department’s use of Hansen Information Technologies Canada Inc. software.
And while days might still seem too long for some, it’s a huge improvement over the old days, said Dwyer at the Hansen 2004 Roadshow last week at Microsoft Canada headquarters in Mississauga, Ont. — especially considering that the city is still knee-deep in the task of integrating all the databases from the 1998 amalgamation of seven municipalities.
“”The change is still going on, the reengineering is still going on and Hansen is really the backbone for that change,”” said Dwyer. “”We’re now able to catch the history for assets from fire hydrants to branch pipes leading to water mains, to sewer service lines from a house to the main sewer on the street. We can now capture that history in one place; we don’t have to search through seven different databases.
“”So when a homeowner writes in (about a problem) . . . we can quickly turn around and provide that information back to them generally within three to five days, whereas before it could be up to three weeks, depending on how old the request was and how much paper we had to search through.””
The city, which is still on the older version (v.7.7) of the government enterprise software — which comprises tools for asset/infrastructure, citizen relationship management, utility billing, public works, code enforcement, planning, financials, GIS and building permits tracking — is moving toward implementing Hansen 8, the latest version of the software. Hansen 8, built on Microsoft’s .Net architecture, is 100 per cent browser-based, providing the user access through a secure desktop portal.
But it may take a while for Toronto to get to Hansen 8, Dwyer said.
“”We’re still harmonizing work throughout all of the city so it doesn’t matter if you’re in Rexdale or the Beaches — you will have the same level of service in the same time frame,”” he said. “”It may take some time to get there, but the advantage is it offers the city something it can really capitalize on.””
According to Hansen CEO Charles Hansen, the software helps municipalities get a grip on not only what they have in terms of physical assets, such as water mains, sewers, pipes, water hydrants, and buildings, but also on the costs of servicing and maintaining those assets. As citizens demand greater financial responsibility from governments, it will be increasingly necessary to be able to mine that information, said Hansen.
“”Eighty per cent of a city’s assets are their fixed, capital assets such as water and sewer infrastructure,”” he said. “”Prior to the last few years there has never really been an understanding of what the assets are out there; there’s no correlation between what’s on a balance sheet and what’s actually in the field, so there has been a lot of re-inventorying of the assets.””
Using Hansen software, he said, a city can keep track of every time an asset has been serviced or fixed, avoiding duplication of work and providing the information required to know when something needs to be updated or replaced.
Jim MacAulay, supervisor of engineering systems in the City of Hamilton, Ont.’s. water and waste department, said his city is also moving from Hansen 7.7 to v8, probably by the end of this year.
Hansen software has helped the city’s 300 users keep track of capital projects, work scheduling and managing contracts and staff.
“”Because we have inventoried all our assets we don’t go back to same one twice,”” he said.
For example, he explains, if the city puts a contract out for fire hydrant maintenance or service, it knows exactly where existing hydrants are throughout the city.
“”We’ve got about 10,000 fire hydrants and it allows us to manage the contractor to make sure he goes to the right fire hydrant,”” he said. “”You’d think fire hydrants are totally owned by the city but they aren’t – some are on townhouse complexes or shopping malls and they’re private, so you have to know which one is yours. That goes for parking signs and stop signs as well. It’s important to know where your assets are.””
The new version comes with a homeowner’s portal, through which citizens can log in calls and complaints on the Web site, which will tie in directly to the city’s back end maintenance systems, said MacAulay.