South Dundas plan to outsource staff deferred by SDG Council

CORNWALL – A plan to outsource staffing for South Dundas’ planning department was deferred by SDG Counties council June 17.

The plan, if approved by council, will see SDG Counties hire a full-time planning technician to provide planning services for South Dundas. The Municipality of South Dundas currently has a vacancy in the position. SDG provides part-time planning services already to South Dundas under a service agreement.

If approved, the full-time hire for SDG Counties would be billed to South Dundas at an hourly-rate, with all costs for the position accounted for. The action request requires a change to the shared services agreement between the two tiers of municipal government. South Dundas, and three other municipalities in the Counties, and provides administrative support in these cases to SDG staff who work on behalf of that lower-tier.

Councillor Jason Broad (South Dundas) billed the change as a great opportunity for succession planning within the Counties’ department. Many councillors around the table questioned the implications of such a move.

“If they need a staff person, they should hire a staff person,” said Councillor Carma Williams (North Glengarry). “We’ve got Counties having staff in our municipal offices, when it should be municipal staff being in municipal offices with the support of the County. That was the spirit of the [Shared Services] agreement.”

Peter Young, SDG’s director of planning and economic development services, was supportive of the change citing examples of how the Counties already has staff working in municipal offices including from his department.

Councillor Steve Densham (North Stormont) also voiced his concerns. “I wonder how much of this is precedent setting,” he asked. “From [North Stormont’s] perspective, we benefit absolutely. We see Counties’ support as supplementary to current staff.” He continued that the current model states if a lower-tier municipality needs a full-time staff, that municipality would hire that staff person.

Densham said he was not against of the move, but the precedent set by it could be applied to other departments.

“This opens up a potential big door for that kind of thing and requires a bigger discussion than in the moment,” Densham concluded.

Councillor Theresa Bergeron (North Dundas) clarified that the new position at Counties was to support only one lower-tier municipality, not multiple municipalities.

“If it’s just for one municipality, then they should be getting their own staff instead of going through the Counties,” she said.”

Broad defended the ask saying it supported the Counties’ own strategic plan, increasing collaboration within the municipalities that make up SDG.

“I believe we have not done enough of that at all,” Broad said. “This is a great opportunity in the planning department for succession planning. This is a great opportunity for someone to work through the lower tiers and move to the higher tier through succession planning.”

Councillor Marc St. Pierre (South Dundas) said that the challenge for small municipalities is to hire staff.

“I challenge any municipality to go out and get five planners right now,” he told council. “I think the reality is that the Counties are the first ones we have to go to for applications. It makes sense to add on to the planning team. This is kind of a pilot project in our mind.”

He added that with all the growth that is planned for the counties, the planning department needs to be one of the “strongest departments we have at the County level.”

Unwilling to approve or defeat the motion to add the new staff position without more discussion, Council voted to defer the new position. SDG Council will discuss it again at a Committee of the Whole meeting, to be held in July.

South Dundas’ planning technician position has been vacant since early-May.

Any changes about whether that job would be contracted to the Counties have not been discussed at any open council meeting in South Dundas. The municipality has also not advertised the position for hire.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader