City council has approved the addition of four new staff positions, including two new firefighters to improve emergency response times.
As well as the fire crew positions, council, during its Wednesday financial planning session, approved a new building inspector position as well as the addition of a contract worker coordinator.
Coun. Larry Samson said the extra firefighters are needed in order to ensure the community’s safety.
“We’ve heard throughout the past that we’re having challenges with adequate response to the south of Campbell River,” Samson said. “We’ve had an incident where one of our citizens had to effect a rescue because the fire truck couldn’t get there in time.”
According to city staff, the issue is that in 20 per cent of daytime emergency incidents (20 emergency incidents a year on average) No. 2 Fire Hall is not able to staff a fire apparatus which results in long response times to the southern end of the city. The two additional full-time positions, which are budgeted at $195,000 for 2017, are expected to also reduce overtime costs and reduce fleet operational costs.
Coun. Michele Babchuk said the need for extra firefighters is an indication that the community is moving in a positive direction.
“This is for community growth and this what we’ve wanted to see for years since we’ve come out of the loss of our mill,” Babchuk said. “Sometimes as we grow, our service levels have to go up.”
The same logic can be applied to the addition of the building inspector, which council allocated $103,250 towards for 2017.
A growth in new construction has resulted in a gap between service delivery times for building permits and inspections, and community expectations. According to city staff, there is frustration within the development community when the city is unable to respond to inspection requests as per industry standards.
Mayor Andy Adams said it’s a position that in the long run will help pay for itself.
“Having the resources on the ground that can expedite those permits and those inspections, and getting construction flowing, not only makes our community more construction and business development-friendly but the quicker that those buildings are done, the quicker the revenues come in to support these new positions,” Adams said. “I think it’s essential we have our land use and planning department staff be able to expedite that, which results in direct revenue coming in.”
Adams was not so agreeable, however, to the final position added by council – a staffer to oversee all of the contractors hired to work on city infrastructure and property.
City staff’s business case for the $74,000 position was that there are not enough staff resources for the city to meet its WorkSafe BC requirement to coordinate contract workers on the 1,500-plus contracted jobs the city undertakes annually. Additionally, staff said there are not enough resources to sufficiently evaluate and inspect the work of contractors which can result in sub-standard work and escalated costs which can create a worker safety, public safety, cost and reputation liability.
Adams, though, said the position is unnecessary.
“We have been going without this position in excess of eight years with no issues and I think that’s because of the excellent work this staff does do to make sure we are, as best we can, in compliance and I see this as a nice to have,” Adams said.
But Coun. Charlie Cornfield argued that “I think this one is very necessary” and Coun. Colleen Evans said she wasn’t prepared to take the risk.
“I think it’s critical that we keep that funding in place for 2017,” Evans said. “It’s our job to make the tough decisions but I’m not willing to take that risk.”
Coun. Larry Samson sided with Adams, and suggested the position instead be a priority in 2018 in order to reduce the bottom line to taxpayers in 2017.
“Unfortunately we have to make the tough choices” Samson said.
In the end, though, the position was approved as only Samson and Adams were in favour of nixing the role.