By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed during a May 11 county council committee of the whole meeting held virtually.
A newly created procurement co-ordinator position, a recommendation from the county’s service delivery review, has not yet been filled. The position was first posted in Aug. 2021, and offered to an applicant who declined. It was reposted in Oct. 2021 and Feb. 2022 and offered to a qualified applicant, but they were unable to accept after failing to find housing in the area.
Andrea Bull, director of corporate services, said filling the position was important in order for the county to begin realizing the cost savings identified in the service delivery review, which she noted were considered possible because of collaborative procurement between the county and local municipalities.
Bull recommended to county council an alternative recruitment method to fill the vacant position – that the position instead focus on recruiting candidates with a basic financial background, a willingness to complete the required two-year program with the Ontario Public Buyers Association, and mentorship and support with a fully-qualified procurement professional from a neighbouring municipality, such as Peterborough.
“Based on our recent recruitment initiatives for other positions, staff believe that this change will broaden the pool of candidates, and increase our chances of finding the right individual for the role,” she said in her report.
While the employee is completing the courses, on their own time outside of the regularly scheduled work week, they would receive 85 per cent of the salary for the position.
“I think this is really creative thinking, actually,” said Councillor Andrea Roberts. “It’s a very unique position … A lot of people have good financial sense, the willingness to learn is exciting for a lot of people.”
Councillor Carol Moffatt said she appreciated the innovative idea, but said she confessed to struggling a bit.
“It feels to me like we’re trying to shove a square peg in a round hole,” she said. “We’ve identified we are interested in going in this direction but are we trying too hard to make it work? We seem to be doing OK now with collaborative purchasing. I guess I’m looking for the risk reward or cost benefit. Longer term vision is what we want and I see how this would provide for that, but I just have a little concern that – are we trying too hard to make something work that the universe isn’t offering up naturally?”
She noted there are vacancies in municipal jobs not just in Haliburton County, but across the province and beyond.
CAO Mike Rutter said the procurement co-ordinator role is not unique, exists in “just about every” municipality, and is a fairly standard position.
“I absolutely agree that we’re doing quite well in procurement but it’s coming at a cost,” he said, noting that other staff are working on projects “off the corner of their desks,” and it would be helpful to have someone in the role committed to doing the work, thus freeing up others to focus on their own core responsibilities.
He said he was concerned that additional investment and positions had been added during the budget process without realizing the cost savings of the service delivery review, and that the county could potentially be going into the budget in 2023 with a brand new council, many new faces, and without those savings as well.
“I’m just concerned, I guess that’s the reason we’re kind of in a let’s keep moving on this and find someone,” he said.
Additionally, council discussed that Dysart et al has hired a procurement co-ordinator to serve that municipality.
Rutter said the two positions were expected to be complementary as opposed to being in conflict.
Moffatt suggested further conversation be had around the service delivery review prior to moving ahead with the alternative recruiting suggestion. The next steering review committee meeting is scheduled to occur in June.
Councillor Pat Kennedy agreed with delaying the decision, wondering about the concept of having grant writing and research as part of the position, and questioned whether there might be further opportunity for an internal hire if the job posting was altered.
“I guess I’m going to say this now: service delivery review, single tier government, shoreline preservation bylaw, I couldn’t be more disappointed than where we are this late in the mandate in doing a whole bunch of things and I’ll limit my comment to that,” said Councillor Brent Devolin, opting to abstain from voting on delaying the decision until after a discussion in June.
Councillor Cec Ryall said he hesitated to vote and said he thought, “we should be going ahead with something.”
“Taking some time to take a second look at the job given the concerns that have been expressed is not stopping it, it’s just providing some breathing room to get it right,” said Moffatt. “Yes we’re close to the end of our mandate but that doesn’t mean we just stop doing things and go home.”
The proposed changes to the position were deferred to the service delivery review implementation steering committee meeting in June.
Pavement markings contract recommended
Staff have recommended the contract for the supply and application of pavement markings be awarded to Provincial Road Markings Inc. though almost 30 per cent over the 2022 approved maintenance budget.
Robert Sutton, director of public works, said pavement markings generally include the longitudinal yellow and white lines, arrows, stop blocks, crosswalks and hatching. His report said the Municipality of Dysart et al and the township of Algonquin Highlands participated in the previous pavement marking tender and this year, the township of Minden Hills has also joined the tender request. All organizations participating in the tender award and administer their parts separately.
Provincial Road Markings Inc. was the low bidder at $199,961, the county’s portion of that contract being $186,671 plus HST and the approved budget amount being $145,000.
Sutton said there are issues going on with supplies and materials, and that staff is looking at some cost saving options to save anywhere from $20,000 – $30,000 going forward.
“In 2020, staff discussed with council potential cost saving options of painting the white edge lines every second year,” said Sutton’s report. “Currently, staff are recommending that the contract be awarded as tendered. However, staff are currently reviewing the county’s inventory as well as current condition of our pavement markings and will return to council with possible cost saving option(s) for council’s further consideration and direction.”