Staff told Algonquin Highlands councillors Nov. 26 they need some help for 2021 in the form of some new hires.
The additions were just one part of the annual, pre-budget, projects and priorities discussion.
CAO Angie Bird said despite COVID, which created logistical and financial challenges, the township was able to complete many planned projects in 2020. However, she said as Mayor Carol Moffatt often says, the community is changing, even more so with the pandemic. She said staff are mindful of those changes and are planning accordingly.
“We continually strive to find efficiencies while providing the best possible service to the public. But we are now at a point where that is not sustainable for the long-term. Additional staff are needed in a variety of different areas to support the increasing workloads,” Bird said.
Some of the staffing requests included a communication coordinator on a contract basis. Treasurer Jean Hughes said the person would do website upgrades including modernizing it for fillable forms and online payment options.
Building and bylaw’s David Rogers is asking for an increase in hours for himself and the deputy chief building official to 40 hours during the busy summer months. They currently work 35 each.
Parks, recreation and trails’ Chris Card has asked for an increase in trails-related staffing and training to accommodate the continued jump in user attendance. He would like one new seasonal trails technician/by-law officer position added. While presenting his report, Card said “we’re now well over 150 per cent higher in attendance in all of our areas with the same staff base that we had back in 2006.”
And director of public works, Adam Thorn, said his department is also stretched. He said they currently hire one seasonal roads operator annually from May to November, but he’s proposing to hire two seasonal operators for annual operations. He said when poor winter weather comes, it is not unusual for staff to work 14-16 days in a row. He said in 2018, staff worked 27 days out of 31 in December.
No dollar figures were attached to the staffing asks but will be presented during 2021 budget talks.
Some other key projects discussed at the meeting included a basement renovation at the municipal office to create three new offices and a new columbarium for cremations. Planning is looking to do a development charges study and bylaw in conjunction with the County and further examine short-term rental regulations. Building and bylaw hopes to complete year three and four of its septic re-inspection program and buy two tablets and software to modernize permitting. Parks, recreation and trails wants to update signage at the Frost Centre trails, campsites, put up swings at the Oxtongue Lake Community Centre, implement better software for water trails reservations, install new lightning protection at the Dorset Tower, possibly replace the peekaboo rock stairs with landscaping, do work at the Skin Lake landing, possibly buy a mobile event stage, and replace a snowmobile and canoe. Public works hopes to do reconstruction on North Shore Road and do work on Bear Lake bridge, the Buckslide Dam bridge and possibly St Peters bridge. It’s looking to purchase three trucks. Thorn also wants to complete a lift for Stanhope library, among numerous other projects at community centres and museums, the airport and landfills. The full lists of projects and priorities can be found on the council agenda for Nov. 26.