There’s not enough Diana Burton to go around.

In addition to the city manager, however, this could also apparently be said about the city clerk, treasurer, mayor and council, and others who work at city hall, as the proposed 2022 municipal budget includes a request from administration to create and fill the out-of-scope position of executive assistant.

“As more and more responsibilities are downloaded on to municipalities from the federal and provincial governments, it is increasingly difficult to keep up with the increase in required levels of administration and operations,” noted city clerk Ferne Hebig in her official recommendation to council. “The duties of an executive assistant would be to perform a variety of highly responsible, confidential and complex administrative, secretarial and executive support duties for the city manager, city clerk, city treasurer, mayor and council members, as well as to relieve management staff or clerical and administrative tasks, and to do other work as required.”

The cost to implement this new position is set at $55,005 and, with benefits, the total cost to the city would be $67,074.

“Do you think it would help to have somebody from the outside looking in such as a consultant who can go through the whole structure (at city hall) to see if some things can be streamlined?” asked councillor Richard Levesque during council’s Jan. 10 meeting.

Burton replied by stating it would likely not hurt to have a consultant examine the situation, but added it could prove quite costly.

“When this has been suggested in the past, usually the price tag is too heavy to consider it,” she said.

Burton went on to say hiring a consultant is not cheap.

“Well, hiring new employees is not cheap either,” Levesque added.

According to city treasurer Asma Qadri, a draft job description provided to council has the executive assistant doing about 80 per cent of tasks no one is currently assigned to specifically. Meanwhile, the proposed budget also requests splitting the joint role of fire chief/building official into two separate full-time positions. The role is currently held by Neil Marsh.

“As discussed at length elsewhere in this budget proposal, time requirements have far outstripped the available time resources with current staffing levels,” Hebig noted.

As such, she added, the fire department requires the full-time attention of a qualified fire chief while the planning and development department would be much improved if the building official is able to focus fully on that specific role. The estimated cost for the first year if the roles are split is $105,200 while the annual operating costs on an ongoing basis is expected to be $82,500 per year.

“I struggle with this,” stated councillor Conrad Read. “If we were an expanding community with a lot of new buildings I probably wouldn’t have a problem, but I do struggle with this.”
Levesque agreed.

“This goes back again to my idea of having someone from the outside going through the whole organization,” he said.

Burton, however, said building officials not only bring in revenue through new building permits, but also by inspecting and enforcing requirements that ensure current buildings are compliant.

“That is not being done,” she said.

When contacted about his input on the request and if he would be interested in continuing as fire chief or as building official if the job is split, Marsh declined comment until the budget is approved. No formal decisions were made on either proposal as the budget itself was not passed at Monday’s meeting. The budget will next be on the table Jan. 24.

by Phil Ambroziak