Regional district directors disagree over contract with City of Campbell River

Strathcona Regional District directors disagreed at their last board meeting on signing a contract with the City of Campbell River for Information Technology (IT) services.

Quadra Director Jim Abram said he didn’t think that signing on to a 12-month contract was appropriate before the regional district’s new chief administrative officer is in place.

“Due to the fact we’ve hired a new CAO we should not be tying our hands for a full year with this contract,” Abram said at last Thursday’s regional district board meeting.

“I think something like a three month to six month transitional contract would be more appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate to move forward on this.”

But Dawn Christenson, financial services manager of the regional district, said the contract with Campbell River has a 90-day escape clause that allows either party to terminate the contract before the 12 months is up.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said she didn’t understand why the regional district is going through the City of Campbell River for IT services when the organization just hired its own IT manager last October.

“I thought the whole purpose of us hiring our own personnel was that we were going to do our own IT work,” Leigh said.

“We have our own employee that’s employed to do IT. I don’t know that we need this at all.”

Christenson said in a report to the board that the regional district’s new IT manager can perform some of the functions previously done by the City of Campbell River but not all.

The regional district previously paid $97,000 to $152,000 annually (depending on overtime or project costs) to the city for IT services, but the new, 12-month contract is valued at $117,000.

Christenson said that reduction reflects the fact that the regional district can now deliver some of its own IT services in-house.

Christenson said because the IT manager came onboard in October, there was “simply insufficient time to assess the specific levels of IT services that would be required under a new contract arrangement prior to expiry of the current contract in December, 2015,” and therefore, the shorter-term 12-month contract seemed like the best fit.

But Leigh, at Thursday’s board meeting, echoed Abram’s concerns about the regional district entering into a contract just days before the new CAO was to start on March 1.

“I would like to defer to the next board meeting,” Leigh said. “I would like our new CAO to have some review of this before we go ahead on signing off on a new contract five days before he starts.”

Campbell River Director Larry Samson argued that dumping something as simple as an IT contract on the new CAO benefits no one.

“You’re right, we’re getting a new CAO and the last thing that he wants to do is all of a sudden deal with this issue alone,” Samson said.

“It does have an escape clause in it, it allows the CAO to come on board, and for lack of a better word – get his feet wet – see what the issues are and when he has time to deal with this, then he can deal with it. The last thing we want to be doing is saddling him with this and not allowing him to get on with other issues that we all want dealt with immediately.”

In the end, a motion by Leigh to defer the contract to the next board meeting was defeated, with directors Abram, Leigh and Gerald Whalley the only three voting in favour.

The board then proceeded to authorize regional district staff to execute the IT contract with the city, with directors Leigh and Whalley opposed.