Eganville -- North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) Township will be hiring a new staff person to keep up with special projects amidst the rapid growth in the township.
Council voted at its regular meeting on October 5th to hire a “special projects coordinator” who will be responsible for several projects that current staff do not have the bandwidth to address including the Sno-Drifters’ property acquisition and Wilkens Recreational Trail.
At the meeting, council heard that growth continues at an usually high rate in the township.
As of October 1st, there have been a total of 91 building permits issued within the township. Fourteen of those permits have been for new builds compared to 12 new build permits over the same period in 2020. The growth and development in the township are also bringing more revenue as of August 31, 2021, $21,192.74 has been paid in permit fees compared to $16,782.80 for the same period in 2020.
“At the end of September, we’re almost at 2020 levels, ” Mayor James Brose said. “It’s nice to see that construction happening in our municipality.”
This growth presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the municipality, creating new demands on the township for service provision.
Staff presented a recommendation for hiring a new staff person for a three-month contract, to handle special projects that council had previously approved including the Wilkens Trail and the Sno-Drifters’ acquisition. CAO Andrew Sprunt suggested the salary would come from the savings of the reduced hours of the CAO position.
However, councillors debated the length of the contract for the position, ultimately amending the resolution.
Councillor Maria Robinson questioned whether a three-month contract would provide the continuity needed for economic development projects.
“It doesn’t make sense that they’re going to be there short term, because one of the reasons of (having someone sit on the committee) is the continuity.”
Councillor Doug Buckwald agreed.
“I understand the rationale for the three-month trial,” he said. “But in three months we’re not going to have enough information as to whether or not they’ve been productive or made any progress because of the nature of the projects.”
He went on to express concern if qualified applicants would be interested in such a short-term assignment.
“A 12-month contract could take them through the election period,” he said.
Following the next municipal election, he said the new council could decide whether to keep the position. Municipal elections in Ontario will take place on Monday, October 24, 2022.
“People want to come here and the more attractive we can make it, the more people will want to come here and not just buy up places but also build,” Coun. Buckwald said. “It’s an investment in moving the township forward.”
However, Councillor Janet Reiche-Schoenfeldt disagreed.
“On the other hand, what about the cost and the efficiencies we’re trying to do?” she asked. She questioned whether the township should have taken on those projects if the staff bandwidth wasn’t available. Mayor James Brose responded by reminding council of their bigger picture objectives.
“If these projects can move forward with the momentum that we’ve already generated, then the development that follows will help fund the position because it’s going to help our municipality grow,” he said. “Yes, there is risk, absolutely. But sometimes we have to be willing to take that risk because we know that going forward the only monies that come into our township are through taxes, grants, user fees and development.”
Coun. Robinson suggested that in addition to the special projects, the new staff person could research and apply for further grants to help with generating new revenue for the municipality.
Mr. Sprunt agreed Grant funding is certainly something the municipality could put into the job description.
Coun. Buckwald said people want to move to the area.
“The more attractive we can make it the more people will want to come here and not just buy up places but build. That’s good for the township in so many ways,” he said. “It’s an investment in moving the township forward.”
Council voted in favour of his proposed amendment to the resolution, to extend the contract from three to 12 months.
Councillors Robinson, Buckwald, Melvin Berndt and Mayor Brose voted in favour of creating the 12- month special projects coordinator position, with Coun. Reiche-Schoenfeldt the only dissenter.
Christina Vietinghoff, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader