December 3rd, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 48
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Division over new development
staff for 2015
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
At a budget meeting on Nov. 27, administrators argued that the municipality needs extra development staff but a handful of councillors are dead set against any new hires for 2015.
About a half a dozen new positions are being proposed. If all of them are accepted the municipal budget for salaries and wages will jump from about $5.7 million to about $6.2 million.
The new positions include an additional peace officer, extra community service labourers and summer students, a planning manager and a planning clerk.
The proposed planning manager and planning clerk made for some heated debates.
“I’m not in favour of any new hiring for 2015,” said Councillor Bill Kovach. “I think now we have an excellent team in place. Let’s run a full year with this team.”
Kovach argued for more efficient use of existing staff. He also expressed worry about spending on salaries and benefits when future borrowing might be needed to finance capital projects.
“I wish we could say yes to everything in this document…,” said Kovach of the staff proposals. “I see our net tax levy in 2013 was $6.9 million. I see this document saying we’re going to spend $6.1 million in wages and salaries. I think we could look at how we’re managing the whole setup.”
The positions of planning manager and planning clerk are designed to help the development officer. The previous development officer resigned several months ago but according to a municipal release, in his exit interview he said felt an absence of managerial support.
The release goes on to say that municipalities are seeing an increase in liability risk regarding decisions made in the planning department. The additional staff in the planning department is designed to minimize that risk.
CAO Sheldon Steinke said the development officer position was too complex and argued that a planning clerk was needed to deal with members of the public.
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“Right now, the common complaint we get is we’re not open for business because we don’t have anyone to answer questions,” said Steinke. “The development officer position is not going to stay the same. The job description cannot stay the same as it is now. It has to become more a functional paper pusher job.”
Steinke said a planning manager would make sure all developments remained above board and legal, which would reduce the number of legacy issues.
“I’ve got three files on my desk right now that have been eating up my time for the past month. They’re all legacy issues about failed developments or failing developments or complaints about developments,” he said.
Patrick Thomas, director of Planning, Engineering and Operations argued that if the Grassy Mountain coal project becomes operational in 2018, the community can expect a jump in development and will need the extra staff.
“You try and wait to get everything in line until that boom happens and you won’t be able to catch up,” said Thomas.
Councillor Dean Ward argued that there are already enough lots on the market for a 25 to 30 per cent growth of the population and that the Grassy Mountain project wouldn’t necessarily mean a significant increase in the population.
“If you look at what’s going on in the Elk Valley,” said Ward. “Over half of the employees who work at the mines don’t live in the surrounding communities. If you think the 400 people who are going to come in and we’re going to see all that impact, we’re not. If we get 200 of those people we’ll be doing well.”
According to the release, the planning manager would have a salary of $127,000. The planning clerk would make $62,800. The summer student would make $11,059.
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December 3rd ~ Vol. 84 No. 48
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