Unrealistic expectations puts City’s Environmental Sustainability Coordinator job on hold

By David F. Rooney

It won’t cost the City a dime — at least for the first year — but Council has, for now, balked at hiring an “environmental sustainability coordinator” in large part because no one knows exactly what such a person should really be doing.

“It won’t cost the City anything, it won’t cost local taxpayers anything directly,” said Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt as she attempted to convince the rest of Council to back a proposal to create the one-year, half-term contract position, which would have been paid for with $75,000 in federal Gas Tax Fund money.

Be that as it may, it’s budget time and the rest of Council is as nervous as a passel of cats on a hot tin roof when it comes to spending any amount of money.

Councillor Chris Johnston’s concern best represented Council’s feelings. He said that judging by the work plans and duties presented to Council this part-time position could easily morph into a full-time, permanent position that would cost the City more than $100,000 a year

“I would still like to see this person work themselves out of a job but looking at the work plan and the work load and I don’t see that happening,” he said.

The proposed work plan far outstrips the capacity of a single part-time contractor. The two-page list of duties and three-pages of single-spaced work plans covers just about everything from “fielding e-mail communications” to assisting City staff to coordinate the Solid Waste Manasgement Strategy, collaborating with the CSRD, encouraging Bear Aware household composting, completing a City Hall sustainability audit, expanding the opportunities for toxic waste disposal, protecting the natural environment and developing Greenhouse Gas reduction targets. And then there were a real couple of lulus: work with stakeholders to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations and “taking action to recover species at risk: notably mountain caribou, white sturgeon, bull trout (and) kokanee salmon.”

As Mayor David Raven put it: “I find it odd that we mention mountain caribou. I don’t know what bearing that has on City issues.”

Once Councillors were through shredding the work plan, they voted 5-1 to agree — in principle — to hire a contractor for a one-year term with a specified, and presumably realistic, set of tasks. Councillor Tony Scarcella voted against it.