Retaining rec staff an issue

·3 min read

With the end of pandemic shutdowns and a new focus on recreation programming levels never seen before in Southwest Middlesex, having the staff to make things run smoothly is a necessity.

Keeping staff has been an issue.

Coun. Christa Cowell’s motion to have municipal staff write a report on how best to keep people working in the recreation department was passed unanimously by council at the June 22 meeting.

“The spirit of this motion is that we had staff hired, and they took the opportunity of a full-time position elsewhere,” explained Cowell at council.

She did not want to constrain council to one answer, suggesting it could be a full-time position or more contract work for things like cutting grass as Coun. Martin Vink suggested.

The main point was to meet the demand for recreation option Cowell said the public is demanding.

“We have all received emails and feedback on the level of service this community would like to see,” said Cowell.

An example of just how busy they are from the operations report released at the same council meeting was the 300 aquatic program enrolments for this summer alone. That does not include the increased summer offerings, and the planned expansion of winter offerings when the Glencoe arena renovations are completed this winter.

While the report itself was passed unanimously, point of contention for what the solution could be was the restructuring already done at the municipal office.

“This is a complete back-pedalling on restructuring that staff recommended. Will we be rescinding the motion to restructure, and will we be offering the people that lost their jobs their jobs back?” asked Coun. Mike Sholdice.

Mayor Allan Mayhew wanted to move one step at a time during the meeting.

“I’m not saying those discussion might not come up privately, but we are trying to make the recreation run as efficiently as possible with the restructuring that the majority of council approved of. That was not part of Coun. Cowell’s notice of motion,” said Mayhew.

“If we can make improvements to that recreation department, that should be the focus of this council,” he added.

Coun. Mark McGill did not see the idea of having a full-time staff member as back-pedalling but rather being more stable for employees by moving away from seasonal hiring, as he explained to council.

“I remember at the beginning of the pandemic there were people wondering why we didn’t lay employees off. They said you’re not running these programs, you don’t need as many employees. We didn’t do that, but when we did the restructuring we went to two full-time people but only full-time for the winter, and then two for the summer.

“It gave us more flexibility so in case things shut down again because of the pandemic, then we would have more flexibility to reduce staff. But it seems like the pandemic is more under control now, so we don’t need that,” said McGill.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner

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