Parksville city staff project list doubled in first half of 2021

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Parksville city staff are working additional hours, hiring short-term contract positions and deferring operational priorities to manage a long project list, according to the city’s chief administrative officer.

“We are seeing operational impacts. We simply cannot keep up to our even day-to-day items at the moment. I don’t believe the workload pressures are sustainable,” Keeva Kehler said in her report to council during its July 5 meeting.

Kehler said staff is looking for direction from council after its project list doubled from 47 items in January to 94 in June. She said 13 new management team members would be required to complete the current list, if left unaltered. Kehler added she was hopeful two special project managers would be hired soon.

Mayor Ed Mayne made a motion to hold a committee of the whole (COW) meeting in September to review the project list and make recommendations.

“We don’t have the ability to start new projects at this point in time. Council is down in the month of August, for all intents and purposes and therefore won’t be passing any additional work on,” he said.

Coun. Doug O’Brien suggested council could discuss striking a number of items off the project list during the meeting, rather than wait until the fall.

“I have a concern about dropping council-approved initiatives without going through the proper process,” said Mayne.

Kehler said the city has been recruiting for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made hiring difficult. “We’ve actually offered positions to a number of different people and it’s not just COVID, but some folks felt their partner wouldn’t be able to get a suitable job in this area.”

She wrote, in her project list update, that council expressed a desire to maintain tax rates at reasonable levels, meaning there would be no permanent expansion to the city’s workforce. Her report also noted staff work associated with routine operations, such as budget bylaws and the city’s tree chipping programs, is also increasing substantially.

“The workload pressures are not sustainable from a staff wellness and retention perspective,” reads Kehler’s report. 

Her update also noted 2022 is expected to be another busy year for staff, with substantial projects including major infrastructure upgrades for the community park, Memorial Avenue plaza construction and the Parksville Aquatic and Recreation Centre.

Coun. Mark Chandler said he thinks there likely is a need to bring more city staff on board, as well as shortening the project list.

“The staff have done an amazing job. They’re running full-out at 120 per cent day in and day out,” said Mayne. “They’re doing way more than what would normally be expected.”

Mayne’s motion to hold a COW in the fall was carried unanimously.

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