Disconnect policy issues, North Perth Official Plan amended

·4 min read

PERTH COUNTY – On June 2, Perth County convened for a lengthy council meeting. Items included the new disconnect policy required by the province, amendments to North Perth’s Official Plan, review of the Paramedic Services June update, and the first quarter (Q1) report.

Right to Disconnect issues

Perth County approved the “Right to Disconnect from Work” policy, after some questions were raised on what this means to the many departments and staff members that make up the county government. On Dec. 2 changes were made to the provincial Employment Standards Act, 2000, introducing the requirement for municipalities to have a policy written on disconnecting from work.

“Disconnecting from work at appropriate times is vital for a person’s well-being and sustaining a healthy work-life balance,” the official policy reads. “At the same time, the county realizes there are times when work must be completed outside of regular hours, which will vary among employees and based on operational needs. For those in roles where operations require, employees need to be responsive to certain work-related communications outside of regular working hours or previously-scheduled shifts.”

Concerns were raised over this new policy. Coun. Darryl Herlick inquired about wage changes that might occur under this policy. Manager of Human Resources Marion McKeen, who presented the report on the policy, said that the policy has limits and that where that would apply, there would already be a policy in place – for instance management. They have a week in lieu of overtime and are still expected to be available for emergencies. McKeen noted that an ambiguity in the amendment’s language has impacted Perth County’s policy.

“Part of the issue with the legislation was the fact that it didn’t have a full definition in terms of what exactly or who exactly this would apply to in practice. I think that’s something that all municipalities and other organizations have struggled with. I know I used management as an example but another good example would be Public Works. If there is a snow plow issue and they’re being called in now, that is part of the operational nature of their job. However, when they’re off duty, they’re off duty. In this policy there is a bit of a gray area.”

The policy passed unanimously, but with note that it might be amended in the future if concerns are raised.

North Perth Official Plan Amendment

Perth County divisively voted to approve Official Plan Amendment 35. The amendment concerns a site-specific special provision at 650 Main St. W., which has it as residential. The residential property will remain as such, but they will be permitted to also have a business office at the location. The property has been acquired by law firm Tarbush Dickey Giller & Associates Professional Corporation with the intention of redeveloping it. They currently operate out of 140 Barber Ave. S., 400 metres away. The report notes that the proposal is consistent with other official plans, including Perth County’s.

At the April 4 North Perth council meeting, the municipality approved the amendment, though two letters of objection from residents expressed concern over compatibility with the residential neighbourhood. At Perth County’s meeting, although no other delegation was present, council members rose concerns with the amendment. Chiefly, there was a concern that such a big lot is being used for a law office when there’s potential for a housing, especially in the middle of a housing crisis. Regardless of comments and discussion, the motion passed and the amendment was approved.

Paramedic Services update

The June update on the highlights of the Perth County Paramedic Services was presented at council, as presented by Chief of Paramedic Services, Mike Adair. Debbie Hunter was introduced as the lead of the Mobile Integrated Health (MIH) program. Training continues – 15 new Paramedics were hired. COVID-19 remains a persistent reality for them and continues to impact the services on a regular basis. They noted that projects are advancing though supply chain issues have impeded those advancements and their infrastructure. One impediment of note is a delay in the delivery of new vehicles. Two ambulances have yet to be delivered. They are also negotiating a new agreement with CUPE.

First quarter financial report

The Q1 report, which spans from January to March, indicates that the county’s expenses are largely on target. The report notes that only one item has been off target. Winter maintenance, according to the report, will be 12 per cent over budget by the end of the year, to the tune of $400,000. Most large construction are expected to incur expenses in the later quarters. The report reads that “Nothing can be identified at this time on potential implication to year-end 2022.”

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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