Thursday, July 25, 2024

Municipal Service Delivery Review Underway

Stephen Vance, Staff

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More than a dozen Meaford residents attended the first of seven public consultation sessions taking place over the next two weeks for the municipal service delivery review that is being embarked on this month.

The review will be carried out over the next 14 months, wrapping up in July of 2017. While the first meeting was held in the council chamber, the next six public input sessions will be held throughout the municipality.

Meaford CAO Denyse Morrisey kicked off the input session with a presentation providing some background and statistics before turning the podium over to those in attendance who wanted to offer input.

Morrissey told council at their March 7 meeting that the project will review services provided by the municipality in 66 distinct categories, and that 12 to 15 months will be required to complete the process. Morrissey also said that as part of the review process, the public will be consulted extensively.

The top concerns of those that chose to share their thoughts at the first public input session were roads, roads, and more roads, and of course, high taxes.

Sydenham resident Andre DenTandt told council that the community is less attractive to new development with the poor condition of its roads, and its high taxes. DenTandt wasn’t alone in his concern about roads, as one resident after another cited road issues – from potholes to asthma irritated by a lack of dust suppressant on gravel roads, to a suggestion that paved shoulders be added to some local roads to improve conditions for cyclists – as their primary concern.

Part-time Annan resident Barry Vallier wanted to know why other municipalities seem to be able to spend less than Meaford.

“What I would like to understand is how, or who, is going to try to compare what we do in Meaford, to what other municipalities are doing much more efficiently?” Vallier asked council. “Someone has to figure out why we overspend in everything.”

Mayor Barb Clumpus suggested that comparisons to other municipalities don’t always tell the full story, and she stressed that the focus of the service delivery review was to ensure that the municipality is providing the services the community wants, at the appropriate level.

“First of all, our staff are very much engaged with their colleagues across the county in other municipalities. That is part of the reason for this engagement: to be looking at best-practices, how can they engage each other, how can they support and learn from each other,” noted Clumpus. “We are constantly, through our staff, looking for ways to improve what we do and to make it better. We’re committed to continuous improvement, and that’s how it’s going to happen.”

As for comparisons to other municipalities, the Mayor would rather not.

“In terms of comparators, I don’t really want us to get into comparators at this stage because we’re looking at what is appropriate, what is doable, what is feasible for our municipality, and what our residents want. You cannot compare what happens here with what happens to our neighbour because the circumstances are very, very different. Their services are different, the contracts are different, everything is different – the make-up of the community is different,” argued Clumpus.

One resident who had recently returned from an extended stay in New Zealand, where he had an opportunity to explore local politics, noted that Meaford’s issues, and the complaints and concerns of Meaford residents, are not unique to this municipality.

“I recently spent five weeks in New Zealand, and during that time I had the opportunity to talk to some politicians, attend some municipal meetings, and what strikes me today is that what we’re facing here in terms of choices seems to be precisely the same as what I was hearing on the other side of the Earth,” noted Meaford resident Jim Hepple. “Potholes in roads, shoulders not paved, people who had real problems like the one we heard here about the dust on gravel roads, and this municipality is getting more than what we are getting. All of those things I heard, and they didn’t seem to have a lot of solutions that kept everybody happy, and I’m not sure that we’re going to have a lot of solutions to keep everybody happy either.”

Hepple went on to suggest that comparing the services provided by one municipality to another is a complicated endeavour, and it is difficult to find an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.

In her report to council last month, Meaford’s CAO noted that during the review process, every service offered by the municipality will be tested with 10 questions:

  • Do we really need to continue to be in this business/service?

  • What do citizens expect of the service and what outcomes does Council want for the service?

  • How does current performance compare to expected performance?

  • Do the activities logically lead to the expected outcomes?

  • How is demand for the service being managed?

  • What are the full costs and benefits of the service?

  • How can benefits and outputs of the service be increased?

  • How can the number and cost of inputs be decreased?

  • What are the alternative ways of delivering the service?

  • How can a service change be best managed, implemented and communicated?

The CAO advised that after review, a given service could be subject to several ‘opportunities for improvement’, including cost savings opportunities, service level adjustments, alternative service delivery, or in some cases, elimination of the service.

With the first public input session complete, another six will be held over the next two weeks. The full meeting schedule is as follows:

May 16, 2016

Council Chambers, 7th Line – 3-5pm

May 17, 2016

Trinity United Church, Annan – 7-9pm

May 18, 2016

Woodford Hall, Woodford – 3-5pm

May 24, 2016

Bognor Hall, Bognor – 7-9pm

May 31, 2016

The Barn Co-operative – 7-9pm

June 1, 2016

St. James Fairmount Church – 3-5pm

June 2, 2016

Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre, Meaford – 7-9pm

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