Reports – Back on the shelf again

It may not be obvious to most since very few attend council meetings, but some very good projects seemed to have been very quietly set aside.  Two of these were very important; the Municipal Organization & Compensation Study/Review and the development of a Community Hub.

In 2017, Council budgeted for and approved funds to conduct an Organizational & Compensation Study/Review. As a result, several deficiencies were identified by the CAO in the compensation system including possible implications through the Pay Equity Act, too much overtime which had the effect of increasing costs or time off; and the need to study and address the new legislation affecting employees and operations.

For years there has been grumbling on the street – residents have always said that the Municipality has way too many staff! Actually, comments were made at the All Candidate’s Nights prior to the last election, and one Councillor, in particular, stated that she wanted a full review of the “White House” positions.

In 2017, the Municipality selected Gallagher McDowall Associates, a leader in the area of compensation and organizational structures, to lead the study.  It was explained to Wawa-news that throughout 2017 and some of 2018, initial discussions were made, documentation obtained and sent to Gallagher McDowall by staff and thousands of dollars were paid in anticipation of the study.

Then the study was terminated, wasting the dollars that had been spent. Most importantly, the deficiencies that had been identified by the CAO and agreed to by Council were then set aside without comment.

Those deficiencies and problems of yesterday, are sure to still exist today.  There are more staff than ever and there have been management changes that likely have given rise to an increase in the salaries of some, which should lead to the questions, “Why not continue with the study?  Is that not the right thing to do?”

Then, what happened to a Community Hub? This concept came up as a result of several matters beginning with Kresin Engineering’s report on the Municipal Office advising that about $1.9 million dollars would be required; to repair the roof (which is being repaired right now at a cost of $200,000), stabilize the weak floor structure, the presence of asbestos, a poor HVAC System, energy inefficiencies, and worst of all the increasing weakness in the building structure itself. Portions of the building date back to the mid-40’s.

What that report did not discuss is that the building itself is NOT compliant with the Ontario Accessibility Act. The most obvious of this is the lack of accessible access to the Council Chambers and to the main municipal desk. A previous study had estimated the cost of an elevator from ground level to Council Chambers at $300,000.

The Fire Hall is also in need of repairs or replacement. Poor sewer connection, inefficient energy and critically –  it will not be able to house a new fire truck (new trucks are larger than the old)

The Superior East OPP are need of a new building and have been placed on the list for consideration. They have two offices, the highway detachment which dates to the 60’s, and the offices in the Municipal building.

A series of reports to Council indicated that it would be possible to partner with these agencies and others, to build a community hub. Ontario Mine Safety Rescue was interested in joining which would have made a nice, commonsense partnership with the Wawa Volunteer Fire Department (imagine the joint possibilities).  There had been discussions with CREATECH in Sault Ste Marie who were quite interested in joining if the NITGC was included, and even planned to transfer five technology jobs to Wawa.

With Council’s blessing the project advanced.  Kresin Engineering identified a site, the MMCC and even provided a project cost.  A discussion was underway with the Province of Ontario, more specifically the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Solicitor General. Some capital funding was available as was the signing of long-term leases for the OPP. The project also caught the eye of the Community Hub Secretariat at Queen’s Park.  Discussions were even held that would have seen newer energy technology used that could benefit not only a new Community Hub but also the existing MMCC.

All of that was not to be, the discussions ceased.  Why? This is yet another study, thousands of dollars spent, only to have the results put on a bookshelf with the others. Was this another missed opportunity for Wawa? Much like the 2012 KPMG Service Delivery Review and the 2018 KPMG Water Rate Study and others, they have been shelved despite staff hard work, recommendations and benefit to the community.

Those are discussions for another day.

Further Reading

CAO-2017-05The subject of this report relates to the consideration of a Community Hub for the purposes of a combined public services building including; municipal office, OPP, courthouse and fire department.

CAO-2017-09  – The subject of this report is a presentation of the Business Case for a Community Hub which would co-locate the Municipal Administration Services, Wawa Public Library, Wawa Fire Department, Provincial Court, the Ontario Provincial Police and Mine Safety Rescue. This report follows the receipt by Council of the “Preliminary Feasibility Community Hub” Report and subsequent direction to porceed with the Business Case.

One comment

  1. It is no mystery as to why these initiatives were shelved.

    As the two reports show, it is the work of the CAO at the time that was driving the process with the approval of Council. Just as the work was gaining momentum, an unfounded accusation interfered with his work and in the long run, Council failed to support him and he left, and Council dropped the ball while searching for a replacement.

    One would think that the new CAO would now recommend a review of the initiatives and report to Council in a similar manner, with detailed analysis, options and recommendations. Members of Council hopefully have read the documents and made themselves familiar with the challenges identified therein.

    Hopefully, the taxpayers will see the items soon on an agenda either for further action or an explanation as to why they no longer deemed important for long term planning for the community.

    Someone needs to ask when will all citizens have access to council meetings?