Dugal digs deep during review of Town

Dugal digs deep during review of Town

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Dugal Smith and Associates appeared to leave no stone unturned during its recent core review of the Town of Oliver.
Smith examined operations and costs in order to identify opportunities for improvement. In the end, he gave the Town a good report card, saying the municipality is well managed with low costs and low staffing.
Smith said after adjusting for the costs of staffing to provide water, fire and sewage treatment to the rural area, Oliver has the lowest annual operating cost of the seven communities they surveyed at $1,020 per capita. In addition, Oliver has the lowest staffing and the lowest number of managers.
Low costs result primarily from five factors: effective and efficient service delivery; tight staffing; contracting of services; and use of auxiliary staff to deal with peak workloads.
“With respect to the core service review, there are relatively few functions that the Town can eliminate or cut back,” Smith said.
Examples of Town services where there is not a compelling public need include: airport operations, bus service, grants in aid, economic development, parking fines, walking trails, sidewalk snow removal, and a tourism bureau.
Examples of Town services where there should be a user pay policy include: animal control, cemetery services, commercial garbage collection, business licensing, and rural water services.
Examples of services that could be cut back or eliminated in extreme situations include: grants in aid, airport operations, sidewalk maintenance, “sister city” program, and sidewalk snow removal.
Smith said key services must move toward a full user-pay system, while the airport needs to pay its way to a much higher degree. He also noted that grants in aid must be strictly controlled, and sidewalk snow removal needs to be considered for elimination.
The Town has contracted out a number of municipal services as a way to control costs. These services include parks and recreation, bylaw enforcement, garbage collection, and tourism promotion. “This is part of the reason by the Town has performed so well on the various cost comparisons we have made,” Smith said.
He recommended the Town also consider contracting out cemetery services and upkeep, maintenance of small parks, and payroll services.
More than half of the Town’s staff is employed in the Public Works department, run by a director, a full-time clerk, a part-time clerk, an engineering technologist, and a foreman.
Smith said he has made the following observations: there is too much management work for one person; the director has limited time to develop, mentor and oversee staff; most work is on a “keep things operating” or emergency basis; and there are no long-term maintenance/renewal plans and funding except for roads.
Smith said having only one manager (Director of Operations Shawn Goodsell) creates a number of problems. These include the following: supervising up to 19 staff when the canal crew is working in the spring; no management coverage when he is away; no regular follow-up on how work is progressing; major capital projects are not monitored consistently; and the department is falling behind on WorkSafe BC safety programs.
Smith noted the Town should employ a manager of operations with water and/or sewage treatment experience. The market salary level for this position is between $80,000 and $96,000. This new position could be partially funded by reduced use of consulting engineers, Smith pointed out.
He also noted the Town should eliminate the foreman’s position when incumbent Dave Janzen retires, and appoint lead hands for work projects.
In his report, Smith noted the fire department operates very effectively with its ability to recruit and retain firefighters. He also noted that response times are good.
Smith said Oliver should continue to operate the cemetery, however, the Town should negotiate with the RDOS to jointly fund operating costs.
“If the RDOS agrees to this arrangements, cemetery fees should be equal for all customers.”
Smith said the Oliver airport places financial demands on the Town in many ways, and benefits only a few residents. He noted that many of the airport’s users do not live in Oliver.
Smith said the Town should make the airport a paying proposition to cover the costs. This means airport revenues need to increase by approximately $13,000.
Smith said council is exceeding the Town’s policy in the grants-in-aid program, which is only supposed to be .05 per cent of the budget (approximately $34,000). As a result, he recommended the Town ensure that grants do not exceed the annual limits.
In looking at Town hall administration, Smith recommended that one office clerk position be eliminated. He also noted the Town should not replace the vacant position of director of development services.
Other considerations include: discontinue the “sister city” and Ambassador programs; hire summer students for routine mowing, and discontinue sidewalk snow removal.

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