Blind River council has deferred any decision on eliminating some town committees following a recommendation that would slash the 18 different committees now in place.
The cuts were recommended in a review of service delivery by KPMG. The firm has recommended the cuts to help eliminate time spent by staff in preparing agendas for various committee meetings to save money.
Town CAO-Clerk Kathryn Scott had recommended cuts with her determining terms of reference for the remaining committees for council’s consideration at a later date.
Councillor Jim Dunbar recommended deferring the issue to give council more time to consider what the cuts would mean to people interested in serving on the committees.
Adding to the mix was a suggestion by Mayor Sally Hagman for council to consider instituting a committee of the whole system where all councillors would be present to discuss issues that come up from the town’s different departments.
Coun. Dunbar said his concerns focussed on residents interested in participating on town committees and those who have served.
“This is a report and… as I was reminded at our last meeting, reports can be made to look anyway you want them to or in other words, tilted,” Coun. Dunbar said. “I can’t honestly disagree with all the reasons for these recommendations.”
“I can’t help feeling somehow we are abandoning all these dedicated committee members and taking away an avenue for residents to engage with our council and administration that has been established for quite a few decades and I know we’re going into a new era and that’s fine,” he added, referring to the sweeping changes proposed. “I’d like to (be) on the (side) of caution and I believe maybe council if they approve this recommendation they might tend to lose these volunteers and the trust of many more who may be contemplating volunteering in this municipality.”
Coun. Dunbar then called for a deferral on the recommendation for council, “so that we might be able to make any room for some residents on these new committees.”
At that point in the meeting, Mayor Hagman made the committee of the whole suggestion that would allow all councillors and members of the public to be present to discuss individual issues as they come to the committee.
“The other advantage of committee of the whole is that you can have presentations from all of the residents of Blind River…so it isn’t just representatives of those committees, but also representatives of Blind River as a whole,” she said, of another option council could consider.
“I would ask that council look at committee of the whole,” she said after reviewing work done by similar committees in other municipalities. “There’s some very favourable results.”
Coun. Steven Wells suggested council consider the contents for the service review contained in the recommendation from Scott and what the eventual terms of reference will be, including requirements for people interested in sitting on any given committee where public representation is required.
“This is a new model and I’m interested in seeing the terms of reference,” he said.
“With regard to committee of the whole… I think at this late date, to decide now that we’d want to go to committee of the whole, we could look at it next year,” Coun. Wells said.
CAO Scott’s report stated:
The Service Delivery Review recommends the following structure be considered for committees:
• Corporate Services - Responsible for any matters that are of a corporate nature including administration, finance, accessibility, policy and strategic planning
• Budget Committee - as the budget is a significant part of Council decisions, have this committee as a standalone that meets throughout the year for budget updates and review progress (all of council)
• Protective Services - Any municipal function that deals with the protection of property and/persons which would include fire, bylaw, building services and planning
• Infrastructure Services - The mandate to deal with all infrastructure matters including roads, water/wastewater, solid waste management and any other environmental matters
• Community Services - This committee would handle all municipal matters that involve recreational and cultural activities within Town
The Town would retain the following boards/committees:
• Library Board
• Police Services Board
• Emergency Management Committee
• Museum Committee that would be made up of volunteers and staff - reporting to the Community Services Committee
• Accessibility Committee - meet three times per year - January to review plan for calendar year of meeting/addressing AODA, June to have a status review and put matters forward for budget meetings, end of November to finalize budget requests. Further volunteers from this committee would be contacted by staff throughout the year for input, as required, on project planning (currently this is already being done i.e. Arena Capital accessibility project)
Council voted to defer further discussion until its next meeting.