The MD of Bighorn administration building in Exshaw.File Photo/Rocky Mountain Outlook

An organizational review prepared for the MD of Bighorn recommends hiring or updating up to 14 positions to “address any gaps, lack of effectiveness, and/or deficiencies” within the municipality.

The review, prepared by J.R. McDonald & Associates Inc., outlines the consultant’s understanding of the MD’s strengths and weaknesses in delivering on legislative and operational requirements under the Municipal Government Act.

“I think it was a really valuable exercise for us to do, again, in conjunction with the governance audit that we did in this term; both things that we haven’t in my knowledge done in our organization in the municipality,” said MD of Bighorn Reeve Lisa Rosvold.

“Taking that time to understand where we’re at and where we need to go, or where it’s suggested we need to go, is really important to look at because sometimes it’s hard to see that big picture when you’re in it every day.”

The 72-page report recommends the MD hire a legislative clerk to support the office of the CAO. To support the corporate services department, it recommended hiring a human resource coordinator, procurement/insurance and asset coordinator, records management and FOIP coordinator, economic development and communications coordinator and a manager of finance and administration controller.

Reporting to what would be a new position of municipal services director, it recommends hiring a manager of roads and utilities and updating the role of the MD’s environmental fieldman and watershed coordinator to become a manager of environmental, agriculture and parks.

Under the planning and development services director, it suggests the MD bring on a planning and development technician/bylaw officer, and under fire services and emergency management, it suggests hiring an administrative assistant, a deputy fire chief – which has already been recently hired – as well as updating the safety codes officer to full-time or contract from its current casual status.

“These were just some guidelines provided from the consultant that worked on this project for what they envision being the required new positions, and it gives us the groundwork necessary to continue to build the organization, using this document as supporting evidence when we bring forward the request for salary and budgetary changes, and positional changes,” said Bighorn’s CAO Shaina Tutt.

“It just provides that supporting documentation we require, that these are the reasons why would need these positions added, and it allows us to pick which years we would implement them and which ones we can put off for the short-term.”

Some positions, including a human resource coordinator and a communication coordinator, which the MD has already hired or is in the process of hiring, were recommended to be brought on as early as this year. Other roles the consultant suggested be hired in 2024 include administrative support for fire and municipal services, a roads and utilities manager, and a planning and development technician/bylaw officer.

The consultant’s report stated it observed some functional challenges for planning and development services to meet legislative, administrative and professional responsibilities.

“The service does not have a function that addresses policies, systems and processes,” it stated. “For example, the development agreements have 60 conditions, many of which could be considered duplicate or unrelated to the issue at hand. A planning technician would be very helpful in resolving these policy and procedure issues.”

Some positions were also recommended to move functions to other departments, such as the bylaw and community peace officer program from protective services to a newly created community services department, requiring a new director position standing alone from the MD’s current corporate and community services sector and director.

It recommended a standalone community services department be created, as one option, to better spread workload and serve the community through fire services, administrative and infrastructure functions.

“With the growth and development in the Bow Valley, we perceive that very soon (perhaps three to five years) there will be numerous challenges that will necessitate these types of organizational updates,” stated the consultant’s review.

“As well, the fire department will become more formalized over the next few years. The MD will require the direct hands-on planning and development led by the expertise of the fire chief and his staff. For the fire chief to have the time to address the transition, it will be important to remove responsibilities not directly related to the fire department.”

The report noted, based on interviews with MD staff and analysis of staffing structure, that a majority of respondents believe staffing levels are adequate but there is a “noticeable minority who don’t share this sentiment.

“This suggests that some departments or roles may be feeling understaffed or overburdened,” stated the review. “The strain of extra work duties and wearing multiple hats was also identified.”

The report also touched on employee relations and morale.

“Staff recruitment and retention issues are significant and concerning; there needs to be collaboration between senior management and the council to address the challenges faced,” it stated.

The review, which was started in June 2023 and completed in October, further noted the MD has made some progress in these areas, as well as to its management systems.

“Management systems within the office have been and continue to be manual in nature,” the report stated. “Development of systems and automation has been woefully inadequate. We note that there was considerable progress with the appointment of an interim CAO after the departure of the former CAO. And with the appointment of the new CAO, the process of review and improvement of management systems and practices has begun.”

This includes, but is not limited to, a recent decision of the MD to remove the new role of a records and information management coordinator, which it was struggling to hire after it budgeted for the role in 2022 and 2023, in favour of records management software.

“There were positions that are recommended that we may have to find different ways of either combining positions into achieving what would be met with these roles … Or, say with the records management [role], for example, we would be going with seeing where we can get to with implementing a software,” said Tutt.

“With budget constraints and whatnot, we may not be able to implement all of these positions,” she added. “We’re going to implement the ones that are going to have the most positive impact on the organization.”

The review was presented to council as information and will be brought back to a future meeting to discuss developing an implementation plan.

“This is for our information to digest and then reflect, and that’s part of the motion is that administration will digest this and then come up with an implementation plan, of which we’ve already started to implement,” said Rosvold.

There are currently 32 positions within the MD, including additional contracts for a project manager and special project planner. Seasonal staff includes a utility operator, two parks workers and an environmental support worker position that is currently vacant.

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 27, 2024 at 14:45

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta

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