On Monday, May 11, Meaford council received an update on the municipal response during the state of emergency implemented as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
During the update council learned that the provincially imposed restrictions and mandated closures of many facilities has resulted in a shortfall in revenue of approximately $400,000, much of which staff has been able to offset with cost-cutting measures.
“It is estimated that approximately $400,000 of projected revenue will not be realized as a result of the pandemic. The more significant impacts come in the form of recreation and aquatic programming cancellations, Meaford Hall performances, campground and harbour fees, and reduced investment/interest income,” CAO Rob Armstrong told council in his report. “To assist in counteracting these reduced revenues, cost reductions have been identified, including reduced salaries and benefits for staff on declared emergency leave and delays in hiring new/seasonal positions. There are also a number of general operating costs that will be reduced, such as fuel costs, fleet maintenance, conferences/training expenses, etc. In total, an estimated $320,000 in cost reductions have been identified.”
As a result, the municipality is currently facing a net shortfall of at least $86,000 for 2020.
Among the cost cutting measures implemented has been the layoff of 21 permanent part-time and casual employees.
“Since the last report was presented to Council, the Senior Leadership Team proceeded with placing 21 permanent part-time and casual employees on an unpaid Declared Emergency Leave in the Cultural Services, Parks & Facility Services and Protective Services divisions. This was as a result of work being unavailable due to provincially mandated closures. In addition, the Acting Library CEO also proceeded with placing three part-time staff in the Library on Declared Emergency Leave,” Armstrong informed council.
Armstrong noted that all full-time municipal staff have continued working at their existing roles.
“When required, staff may be requested to stop their normal duties and may be re-assigned to other areas pending future essential service needs. There are no staff with no work waiting to be reassigned or re-deployed as a result of lack of available work,” Armstrong told council.
Council was also told that staff have made arrangements for the release of the long anticipated municipal report on the proposed pumped storage facility on the Meaford Tank Range. The report will be available to the public by Friday, May 15, and a special meeting of council will be held on June 1 to review the report.
As council will still be limited to virtual meetings, the public will be able to view the special meeting of council on the municipality's YouTube channel.
“It was the intent of staff to bring forward the staff report with regard to TC Energy on March 23, 2020, prior to the cancellation of Council meetings on March 16, 2020. Now that Council meetings have resumed with remote participation by Council and staff, there have been several requests for staff to bring forward the report to Council well in advance of the July 31, 2020 deadline from the Department of National Defence. The biggest concern that staff have is the ability to enable public consultation in a meaningful manner considering the method in which the Municipality is holding meetings,” Armstrong told council. “Considering the desire of Council and the public to proceed, staff are proposing that a special Council Meeting will be held on June 1, 2020 for the purpose of staff presenting the report to Council. At this meeting Council will be able to ask questions with regard to the report and consider the recommendations contained in the report. The agenda and the report would be available two weeks in advance of the meeting for the public and Council to review the report. The proponent or any member of the public can comment on the report by either writing or e-mailing the Clerk. This correspondence will be distributed to Council in advance of the meeting. Alternatively, they will be able to register in advance of the meeting to speak at the Council meeting. Details of the process will be outlined in the Council Agenda.”
Like most, members of council are looking forward to the gradual reopening of the municipality and the province.
On April 30, 2020, the Province released Health and Safety Association Guidance Documents for Workplaces during the COVID-19 Outbreak that will guide how the Municipality will operate and further bring back services.
“The Municipality has embarked on two processes with regard to recovery. One being workplace and operations recovery as we return to work and the other is centred on economic recovery for the business community,” Armstrong told council. “To address workplace and operations, a working team has been established of staff that will oversee the development, implementation, and maintenance of the Municipality’s workplace and operational recovery plans with the objective to return to achievable levels of normal service and operations. This staff committee will also recommend the 'new normal', or changes to levels of service and/or the services offering provided to the community. The purpose of the Committee will be to recommend to Senior Management Team (SMT) and the Emergency Control Group (ECG) for approval, workplace, and operational recovery plans that work towards returning to providing the Municipality with normal levels of service that take into account reasonable and practicable measures to protect the health and safety of our employees and community.”
Armstrong said that Meaford's Manager of Strategic Initiatives is working closely with the Chamber of Commerce, the BIA, the County Economic Development Officers and other organizations in the development of recovery plans.
“In addition, it is the intent of staff that the Economic Development Strategy will be brought forward to Council in the near future as it can also assist in the development of recovery plans for the longer term,” Armstrong advised council.