Cobden – An investment of 45 minutes to an hour by council every three months is not too much time to invest in finding out what’s happening within Whitewater Region Township through a quarterly report presented by staff, noted the reeve at a recent council meeting.
Reeve Cathy Regier was responding to a motion by Councillor Charlene Jackson that staff only respond to questions from council, if there are any, regarding their sections in the quarterly report. Many times when there is a quarterly report, the meetings run longer than three hours, Coun. Jackson said.
“I’m trying to move things along,” she said. “It’s a great report to have for council and the public, but a lot of the report reiterates what council has already made decisions on and what staff have done.”
Councillor Daryl McLaughlin agreed, saying, “We’ve all read the report, we know what’s in it. It doesn’t have to be read to us.”
If there are any questions, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) can bring them to staff, he said.
“It takes a lot of time to listen to what you should have already read,” Coun. McLaughlin added.
CAO Robert Tremblay said that is possible for him to do, because, “we are a team who speaks to each other and I’m aware of what’s going on.”
Reeve Regier said she was not in favour of this motion.
“Forty-five minutes to an hour once every three months is a perfect opportunity to review the accomplishments staff has made. There is an accountability there, not just for council, but for the ratepayers as well.”
She agreed the report should have been read by the meeting, but a refresher is great to have.
It’s also a learning opportunity for staff in making presentations, Reeve Regier said.
“I like to hear from the staff,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to work with us.”
Reeve Regier suggested having a few less agenda items when it’s report time so staff can review their reports.
Councillors Dave Mackay and Neil Nicholson agreed with Reeve Regier.
Coun. Nicholson said it’s interesting to see which parts of the report are highlighted by the department managers, whether “it’s a recognition of a huge accomplishment or achievement of that thing or be applicable later in the year or next year.
“It’s an investment in our time,” he continued. “Accept it as valuable information for us and the ratepayers.”
Councillor Chris Olmstead admitted there are times when he has not read the full report.
“I do read as much as I can, but I don’t get through the whole thing,” he said.
He also agreed that while it does prolong the meeting to have staff give a report, he agrees it helps them to “sharpen their presentation skills.”
He suggested staff highlight areas rather than read the full report.
Coun. Jackson suggested the motion be changed to read that staff summarize their reports from just answering questions.
“That sounds reasonable,” Mr. Tremblay said, noting some staff members who have more experience, such as himself with 20 years, can summarize more easily than those with less experience.
While Coun. McLaughlin questioned if staff could come back with a report on different recommendations regarding presenting the quarterly report, Mr. Tremblay said, “summarize does the trick.
“We just needed direction,” he said.
Coun. Jackson stressed the report is important to council, adding it’s just that when it’s presented to council, the sections pertaining to each department be summarized as opposed to being read verbatim.
Council voted in favour of staff summarizing their sections in the quarterly report and then responding to questions.
Connie Tabber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader