By David F. Rooney
There was big news out of City Hall on Wednesday as the municipal government announced changes intended to streamline operations, reduce costs and improve customer service.
Chief Administrative Officer Tim Palmer said in an interview that he is “very optimistic that the restructuring at City Hall will optimize human and financial resources, deliver an improved customer experience and reduce operating costs.”
The recent departure of John Guenther from the Planning Department and the impending retirement of two other municipal employees has given the City scope to create changes that will impact engineering, planning, building inspection, administration, and public works operations.
“We’re going to be leaner and more efficient,” Palmer said. “This should mean a lot less frustration for the publkic.”
A lengthy news release explaining the changes said the Director of Planning position will be eliminated and replaced by a manager of building and development who will ensure efficient processing of day-to-day applications. Additional realignment and reduction of employee and contract positions will come with the restructuring.
Some expected outcomes include:
- A leaner, more efficient organization.
- Significant improvements to customer service in planning and engineering.
- Increased focus on core municipal services.
- Improved technical support for city services.
- Improved corporate communications.
- Improved long term organizational alignment with community priorities.
- Improved accessibility in City Hall for those with mobility challenges and others.
- Reduced liability and legal risk to the City.
Highlights of the first phase of City Hall restructuring include:
- Director of Engineering Mike Thomas is to assume a new role as Director of Engineering and Development overseeing engineering, building inspection, planning, and development services.
- Merging of engineering, planning and building inspection staff on the lower level of City Hall.
- New service entrance on Second Street that celebrates City Hall’s historical importance.
- Transfer of bylaw enforcement and bylaw development to Corporate Administration
- Establishment of Corporate Administration / Communications position
- Restructuring of administrative services towards a more integrated model to improve service.
- Elimination of several positions and the creation of new integrated ones.
- Concentration of public works services
Palmer told The Current that CUPE Local 363 was informed of the impending changes last week and more talks with the union will be held soon.
“A realignment of exempt, contract and CUPE positions is needed to support cost reductions and a refocusing on our core tasks,” he said. “This restructuring will result in elimination of some positions, creation of new positions that better meet the organizational and community service needs.”
The impact on full time employees will be minimized through attrition. Overall the City will see a reduction of positions in the Engineering, Planning/Development Services and in Public Works/Parks, the reduction of contracted services, and the merging of administrative positions.
Mayor David Raven was not available for comment on Wednesday afternoon. However, the news release included this comment from him:
“Council is committed to these proactive steps to address our debt, infrastructure deficit, and business sector demands to reduce tax increases. It is also a favorable time for our employees to take advantage of change to improve their workplace environment. This is more about the creation of opportunities to improve than the reduction of services.”
Palmer said this restructuring initiative supports all of Council’s 2013 Objectives of achieving:
- Efficient operation of City programs;
- Improved fiscal policies;
- Completion of Operations Reviews;
- Protecting Infrastructure; and
- Enhancing Communications.