If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This is a line the management team at the City of Meadow Lake has proven holds true when, during Monday’s (March 14) city council meeting, a motion was carried to amend the 2022 operating budget to reflect the cost of splitting the existing fire chief/building official role into two separate full-time positions.

This was a move the city’s management team pushed for at budget time, but one that was originally denied. However, after having second thoughts and at the insistence of a strategic planning and development proposal, councillor Conrad Read moved for the motion’s reconsideration.

“As outlined in the strategic planning and development proposal, the scope of the tasks and duties within the position of fire chief/building official – who also acts as our development officer – cannot reasonably be undertaken by one person,” city manager Diana Burton noted. “At least, not if we hope to avoid staff burnout, fulfill reasonable levels of service for the community, take a more serious approach to our long-term and strategic planning, and significantly reduce liability and risk to the city.”

The current fire chief/building official role is held by Neil Marsh. While Marsh wouldn’t provide comment following council’s decision, Burton said, as a frame of reference, Marsh works the equivalent of at least an entire extra day every week in additional hours, over and above full-time hours.

“And, it still is not enough,” she said.

In terms of the building official role, Burton also said the city is legally responsible under federal legislation to enforce the National Building Code, as well as enforce provincial codes and its own building and zoning bylaws.

“If we fail in this regard, we can be held legally responsible for the outcome whether it is regarding our own buildings or a renovation or new build project in a private residence,” she said. “As a city, we need to do our due diligence to mitigate risk and liability.”

Burton also said the finance department can amend the approved 2022 budget to include the role split while still retaining a zero per cent tax increase. The cost to cover the role split would be covered by the city’s surplus from 2021.

Prior to the motion’s approval, Read expressed his satisfaction with the significantly more detailed proposal provided by administration.

“I had some reconsideration and did some checking, and asked administration to bring back some information I requested which they did,” Read said. “There’s a lot of information here including rationale for splitting the two roles, and I appreciate the work they put into this.”

by Phil Ambroziak