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Review provides options for changes to municipal services

by Patrick Raftis

ALMA - The results of a municipal service review of Mapleton Township were presented at a public meeting at the Alma Community Centre on March 7.

Less than a dozen citizens were on hand as CAO Brad McRoberts went through a report outlining conclusions and recommendations resulting from the review.

Prepared by staff under the direction that “everything is on the table,” the review generated a range of options in terms of maintaining, increasing or decreasing staffing and service in all municipal operations.

The review compares the staffing and service levels of Mapleton (population 9,989) to those of three other municipalities: Minto (population 8,334), Wellington North (population 11,447) and Adjala-Tosorontio (population 10,603).

“You look at the services you provide and ... compare to other municipalities,” explained McRoberts.

The draft report shows that, based on full-time equivalent (FTE) figures, Mapleton has the lowest number of employees per square kilometer and the second lowest FTE number per 1,000 population of the municipalities in the study.

Mapleton has the equivalent of 34 full-time employees (26 full time, 17 part-time), while Minto has 41.75 (38 full time, 11 part time), Wellington North 42.3 (37 full time, 11 part time) and Adjala-Tosorontio 29 (29 full time).

The review revealed Mapleton has the largest area, but the lowest population density among municipalities compared. While consistent with the municipality’s agricultural base, this also results in fewer residents to support municipal services over a greater area, the report explains.

In the study group, Mapleton has the highest population of 0 to 14-year-old residents and the lowest population over 65. The median age in Mapleton is the lowest, over 10 years younger than the other municipalities.

In terms of overall financial health, Mapleton ranked second in the group for net financial position per capita.

Yet the review concludes that although Mapleton has the second highest current value assessment, once weighted to reflect application of tax ratios (Weighted Current Value Assessment) Mapleton’s rank drops to 3rd. The report explains this is primarily due to the dominance of agricultural assessment. At 46.08 per cent farmland, Mapleton has the highest percentage of agricultural land of the four municipalities, with Wellington North the next highest at 30.04%, Minto at 24.17% and Adjala-Tosorontio at 13.63%.

The report looked at council composition and provided options for increasing the size of council, establishing wards or adding a deputy mayor role to the current configuration (a mayor and four councillors). None of those options were supported by council. However council did support a recommendation to update and revise the current procedural bylaw and review and potentially revise the existing council code of conduct and appoint an integrity commissioner.

In terms of staffing, council requested a staff report on an option to consider the development of a shared human resources professional between all or some of the northern Wellington municipalities.

“This role would also provide professional support and advice to both the CAO and council on human resource issues, discipline/terminations, legislative compliance, training requirements, and recruitment,” the review explained.

Council declined to support options presented for either eliminating the CAO role or separating it from the clerk’s role (McRoberts’ full title is CAO/clerk).

Eliminating the CAO position would require coming up with an alternative management structure and reallocating duties to other staff.

“The perceived benefit would be the elimination of wages and benefits for the position, however, restructuring and reallocation would likely absorb or exceed any potential savings. There would also be a loss of overall strategic administrative leadership within the organization,” the review notes.

 In the area of finance, council requested further reports on:

- providing citizens with online access to their tax and utility accounts;

- implementing electronic and online options for payment;

- paperless billing;

- accepting VISA payments;

- a web-based tendering system; and

- potentially hiring full-time staff to manage IT and telecommunications rather than contracting.

Council did not support the option of hiring additional finance staff or increasing hours of the current finance clerk to provide better customer service.

Under planning, council opted for further consideration of options ranging from maintaining the current service level to retaining the township’s own planning staff.

The review shows Mapleton budgeted $223,489 for economic development in 2016, compared to $605,209 in Minto ($487,709 for economic development and $117,500 for tourism), $152,191 in Wellington North and zero in Adjala-Tosorontio, where the function is handled entirely at the county level.

Per capita, Mapleton spends $22.37 on economic development compared to $58.96 in Minto, $13.26 in Wellington North and zero in Adjala-Tosorontio

Council supported a motion to add a summer student position to the department during peak tourism months.

Council also supported:

- a proposal to have the economic development coordinator become involved with the planning pre-consultation and application process;

- re-development of a Chamber of Commerce;

- redesign of the township’s website to support modernization of services in coordination with other objectives (i.e. council meeting video streaming); and

- allocating a larger percentage of the reception/administrative assistant position to economic development.

Councillors supported various recommendations to continue with initiatives aimed at recruiting, training, equipping and compensating local firefighters. They also requested a report on a recommendation to increase dedicated administrative assistance time from 10 to 20%.

In the area of parks, facilities and recreation, council agreed to consider an organizational restructuring for the PMD Arena, Maryborough Community Centre and local parks, and to consider establishing a management position responsible for parks, recreation and facilities.

“The restructuring should consider the establishment of additional limited recreation programs through the retention of seasonal recreation program staff,” the review notes.

Council also supported a recommendation to increase prime time and minor sports ice rental rates to be on par with comparators. Mapleton charges $103 per hour ($91 for minor sports) for prime ice time, compared to $124 in Minto and $123 in Wellington North. Minto charges minor sports teams $101 per hour and $93/hr on Saturdays) and Wellington North charges $104.

The review revealed the township’s total expenditures on roads in 2016, at roughly $1.9 million, were lower than both Minto at $2.25 million, and Wellington North at $2.56 million.

The report points out, “Township of Mapleton level of service for the roads is currently at a bare minimum level and in staff’s opinion there is no ability to reduce the level of service any further ...

“Council could consider improvements related the various service levels. Any increase will require additional staff and/or service providers and potentially additional equipment.”

Council supported a number of general proposals, including being more proactive on maintenance of bridges and culverts, increased weed control efforts and additional ditching work.

In terms of winter maintenance, Mapleton is the second highest spender, at about $413,00, compared to $456,000 in Minto, $353,743 in Wellington North and $545,000 in Adjala-Tosorontio. Council agreed to consider contracting out a portion of the winter maintenance work and to support a recommendation to contact out winter sidewalk maintenance in Alma and develop a winter maintenance policy, including sidewalks.

Noted in the review is a move by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change toward greater control of stormwater quantity and quality. Council supported a recommendation to revise development standards to include consideration of control of stormwater quantity and quality. The report notes the provincial policy direction may drive more consideration of an area-rated approach to generate revenues to offset stormwater management costs, an option rejected by council at this point.

Options presented regarding the township’s water and wastewater systems included:

- consideration of operating the water and wastewater system through an independent service provider with an enhanced service level;

- consideration of the township operating the water and wastewater system rather than contracting an independent service provider; and

- amalgamation of water and wastewater services as a local board or commission with or without partnering local municipalities.

Noting council must consider and implement option one or option two in order to maintain current water and wastewater service levels, staff recommend a detailed service option review be undertaken to consider third party versus in-house operation. Council supported the recommendation.

The service review was ordered by council in March of 2016 in response to public concerns expressed through a Township of Mapleton Council Report Card survey.

Asked to rate council’s overall performance, about 13% of respondents indicated they were very satisfied, 26% were satisfied, 34% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, 19% were dissatisfied and 8% were very dissatisfied.

March 17, 2017

 
 

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