West Nipissing’s municipal council adopted a service request and complaint policy, outlining everything a resident could want to know about complaining or requesting service from the municipality. The policy is designed to “uphold a high level of service and to support continuous organizational improvement,” municipal staff outlined.
Essentially, the policy outlines how municipal workers will address and resolve requests and complaints from the people. Let’s dig in.
The policy outlines three categories—service requests, formal complaints, and notice of claims. The public can request help with any of these regarding municipal services, infrastructure, or municipal staff. Of central importance is that these are received “in an accessible and transparent way,” and resolved in a “timely manner.”
Service requests help resolve issues related to animals, garbage, recycling, road maintenance, by-law issues, and water and sewer services, to name a few. If a resident has questions about these, they can submit a service request, which can be done via the municipality’s website under “Forms and Applications”, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 705-753-2250.
You can also express your service request by stopping by the municipal office during regular hours. Upon issuing your service request, you will receive confirmation the request was received, and the municipality will then send those requests to the proper department within two days. The appropriate department will then tend to the requests “in order of priority.”
Note that requests made through social media or sent directly to council members or staff outside of work “may not get documented or be addressed.” Residents are encouraged to submit requests through formal channels.
Now for complaints. The municipality notes that complaints are not meant to address service, requests, notice of claims, inquiries or suggestions. If the complaint regards an issue already addressed by legislation, or an existing municipal by-law, policy or procedure, or involves a decision of council or a standing committee of council, then this is not the time for those.
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A complaint can be made verbally or in writing, and the written ones are considered formal complaints. These usually come after a verbal complaint was made, and the complainant remained unsatisfied with the solution. In that case, break out the pen or printer, because a formal complaint should include the details of what happened, the date, those involved, what outcome is the complainant seeking, and finally, one’s contact information.
A complaint must be filed within 30 days after the alleged event, and can be filed through the “Formal Complaint Form” on the municipal website, or dropped off in person. Note that complaints filed anonymously or on behalf of an unidentified third party, will not be considered. Expect a note within three business days to confirm receipt.
As for notice of claim, this is filed when a resident believes the municipality has been negligent of its maintenance duties which has caused them injury or property damage. This could include falling on ice, sewer backups, flood damages, water pipe problems, and other issues.
Before such claims are made, people “are advised to consult with their insurance company,” municipal staff explained, as “a claimant’s coverage may be more extensive than what they can recover from the municipality.”
However, if you do make a claim, do so within 10 days after the event or incident, and submit a Notice of Claims form found on the municipal website to the municipal office. Within 10 days, a member of the Clerk’s Department will provide written notice they have received the complaint. The municipality will then consult with its insurer and will get back to you “in writing once a conclusion has been reached.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca