-by Anne Finlay-Stewart

Just because I took some time off this summer, I don't want to leave you thinking that your city council has not been hard at work.  Here are my notes from a special meeting August 26, the only one you cannot watch on YouTube.

City Manager Wayne Ritchie was presenting three reports. He began by saying that the city was in the "service and communication business", and all his recommendations were in support of doing that business better and more cost effectively.

The Council supported his recommendation for bringing by-law enforcement responsibilities back into city hall from Police Services. The move is intended to give staff and council a better picture of which by-laws are working as they were intended or not, as well as a cost saving. At the moment, this would only involve one staff person. While the mayor expressed concern that this might make by-law enforcement "a political football" (one of the reasons it was moved out of city hall when it was), other councillors felt that staying out of those disputes was part of the responsibility of a councillor.

Bringing Tourism into city hall was a little more contentious. The case is primarily a financial one, with approximately $20 thousand to be saved in wages (current Service Owen Sound staff could provide the information at city hall) and the possibility of revenue rather than expense from the current waterfront building. 11997304 918939548143084 699822289 n
Councillor Thomas chastised me (unnamed) for discussing the recommendation on Facebook before the meeting, and Mayor Boddy gave me a scolding glare, but my duty is to you, dear readers. I completely agree with Mr. Thomas that this council was elected to find creative solutions to running the city, but I did not want to see such a decision made without public input. And it hasn't been made.
Councillor Thomas clearly described the impact of taking tourist information off the harbour on the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre (Marine-Rail Museum). As many as 75% of the centre's visitors start at the tourist office. Parking at city hall was raised (think boat trailers and mobile homes) as well as weekend service. Councillor Lemon thought the move would be a big mistake: Councillor O'Leary said he was not afraid of change if this was what the City Manager recommended. Councillor McManaman thought they should talk to Grey County which is "all over this" and Councillor Grieg felt they had not had sufficient time to consider the options (bingo). Councillor Koepke suggested they move the department to city hall and leave the service at the waterfront and Councillor Thomas thought it made total sense to see if any other organizations would like to take over service delivery, so they have asked staff to report back on the feasibility of that plan. It is now your chance to speak up if you have ideas on any of this.

In addition, changes in municipal obligations and the way they do their work has led to the creation of three new positions. An Asset Manager will be responsible for cataloguing all the city's capital assets – buildings, parks, vehicles, roads, sewers, etc. - describing their condition and planning for their maintenance or replacement. New provincial regulations intended to keep municipalities from finding themselves in need of infrastructure bail-outs are behind this new position. A Building Manager Manager (I am sure I have that title wrong) will be in charge of managing city buildings and their managers. One hopes that this will mean more oversight of energy consumption among other things.

Except for the new information officer, most managers will report to the senior management team. Ritchie's long experience with the city led him to the conclusion that things run smoother when people have more than one channel for communication and resolution of problems.

As to where all these people will be putting their coffee cups and family photos, that remains to be arranged. Now that it has been decided "who" will be in the building, the "where" will be part of the larger consideration of temporary provisions during upgrades and repairs to city hall.





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