NORTH PERTH – The year-end report from Perth County Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC) Todd McKone to North Perth council on March 29 indicated that 2020 was not a typical year for the lower-tier municipalities or the county.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEMC had to respond to community needs and change service delivery methods because of public health measures that were implemented.
As a notable achievement, McKone mentioned the work he had to do with the municipalities to set up the delivery of vaccines to immunization clinics and helping to oversee their operation.
“In the typical CEMC role, we don’t see that in a typical year,” he said. “Well I don’t have to tell anybody on council that this is not a typical year – last year was not a typical year and the times to come are not going to be typical.”
When he started working with Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) to set up mass immunization clinics it was his strong belief he wanted to bring the clinics to member municipalities.
“With the assistance of your clerk, CAO and mayor we were able to do that,” he said. “That was one achievement I was very proud of – your clerk was a huge part of that so again I would like to recognize Pat (Berfelz) for her outstanding work… to make that become a reality.”
McKone also drew council’s attention to the 2021 work plan because he is leaving his employment with Perth County to become the fire chief in Aylmer.
“I wanted to make sure everyone was in good shape on my departure,” he said. “I wanted a plan for the municipality that was going to work out the rest of the year. Everyone knows COVID is on the front burner but we still have obligations and responsibilities with the provincial government to hit our compliance for 2021.”
Some of the key obligations for the plan are a public awareness and education strategy, review and update the emergency response plan, basic emergency management training, reviews of community risk profile and critical infrastructure identification.
“I’m happy to report to you that we are on track … to hit that target,” he said.
McKone took the opportunity to clear up what the roles and responsibilities are of council are during an emergency.
The official emergency plan states that the role of the mayor is to provide overall leadership responding to the emergency and to chair the emergency control group, which Kasenberg has in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mayor declares the emergency.
If the mayor is not available, Deputy Mayor Doug Kellum would step in and assume those leadership roles.
“If… our deputy mayor wasn’t available it would fall under the Municipal Act… which would involve the rest of council and the CAO would guide us through that process,” said McKone. “Some municipalities have chosen to give the CAO powers immediately so your CAO can make decisions if we can’t get enough council involvement.”
McKone told council it is important they are aware of this process.
Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen asked McKone a couple of questions to clarify a few issues regarding the emergency response to the pandemic. The first was whether different Perth County mayors declaring a state of emergency at separate times affected the overall county response. The second question was whether there would be feedback gathered from municipalities to study the response of Perth County communities during the pandemic.
McKone said he presented all the information possible to the mayors to let them make an informed decision.
“I will agree, it is easier for me when the group moves together in a coordinated effort when we all declare an emergency at the same time and remain in an emergency,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a little bit more understandable for a citizen of Perth County.”
He did recognize that some communities don’t have the services and the programs available as larger municipalities in Perth County and he pointed out that North Perth is one of the larger ones.
“So they look at it as what best serves their people,” said McKone. “I stand behind the councils and the mayors who make that decision whether they feel they need to be in a declaration or not. It is unified when everybody is in a declaration together and terminates together. I think it brings out more understanding but I certainly respect and stand behind the decisions if they choose otherwise.”
In response to Andriessen’s second question, McKone said that as the recovery process progresses there will be a debriefing for council.
“We look at everything we were involved in and we take it apart and we put it back together and we learn from the experience,” he said. “It might change your emergency plan a little bit. It might change the way we approach emergencies in the future.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner