The consultant Highlands East hired to review its entire organization is recommending significant changes including cutting the number of fire stations and shifting organization structure.
Savino Human Resources Partners presented to council about the review during an Oct. 8 meeting. The Peterborough-based consulting firm completed a wide-ranging review of the municipality, offering recommendations on facilities, customer service and operations.
The review recommended reducing the number of fire stations in the municipality from five to three or four. Other recommendations included having the deputy mayor be elected instead of appointed by council and investing in more remote and online customer service options.
“These are recommendations and council will consider the implementation through strategic planning and budgeting process,” Hunter said.
Another recommendation was to have one office for all administration staff and department heads, likely in Wilberforce. However, the report added the municipality does not currently have a space suited for this.
The review said it is not financially prudent for the municipality to continue to run and maintain its large number of facilities.
It said the recommendation to have a unified office and reduce the number of fire stations was to “alleviate some of the financial pressures and not create too large of a customer service impact in the immediate future.”
As for fire stations, the report said its proposed cut could be done in 2019 or 2020 with proper planning.
“It is suggested the municipality look at their volume of calls in the proximity of each fire station as well as the cost and availability of neighbouring communities to help cover in the event of emergencies,” the review said.
The report and its recommendations were informed by surveys conducted with staff and council, as well as face-to-face meetings with staff. The municipality withheld the portion of the review summarizing these as protected information.
Managing partner Matthew Savino said when it comes to facilities, the municipality is challenged by its size and the ramifications of the Highlands East amalgamation.
“There are a lot of legacy buildings here. There probably isn’t a perfect answer,” Savino said. “But there are some recommendations in there as to how you might be able to find some efficiencies.”
Coun. Cam McKenzie complimented the review.
“It’s really easy to be good about positive things. Identifying weaknesses is probably more important,” McKenzie said.
Council voted to receive the delegation. No decisions have been made as to which recommendations will be implemented. The changes are recommended to occur over a two-to-three-year period.