Staff shortage closer to relief

Regional district is currently understaffed at the corporate level and is unable to consistently meet core service demands

The Strathcona Regional District has hired two new staff members to help fill in the gaps of an “operationally vulnerable” organization, according to a recent report.

Russ Hotsenpiller, regional district chief administrative officer, announced at the July 24 board meeting that two brand-new, full-time positions approved by the board in February have been filled.

“We’re at a fairly big moment,” Hotsenpiller said. “We’ve hired two individuals who will be coming on as of August 11.”

Sheila Van Nus, with the Comox Valley Regional District, will fill the role of special projects coordinator while Michele Saunders, a coordinator with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, has been hired as the board services coordinator.

In a report to the board in February, Hotsenpiller described the special projects coordinator role as one that would fill a “gap in expertise and capacity” at the policy development level. The $102,400 position will support several departments, including land use planning, corporate services, legal matters, recreation and finance on an as-needed basis.

The $83,200 board services coordinator is a position working out of the chief administrative officer’s office that will support elected directors and help the chief administrative officer with executive duties.

Hotsenpiller recommended the two positions in his February report to the board which called the Strathcona Regional District chronically understaffed and revealed that staff are often not able to meet core service requirements, they are missing out on their vacation time and are working significant overtime hours.

“Current staff levels are impacting productivity of the organization,” Hotsenpiller wrote in the report. “If a core employee is sick for an extended period of time, or an employee leaves the organization, work in that area stops. As such, the organization has limited alternatives and is operationally vulnerable.”

Hotsenpiller said with five senior managers, the organization is currently understaffed at the corporate level and is unable to consistently meet core service demands. The new hirings mark the first time since 2009 that the Strathcona Regional District has added a new position.

Meanwhile, the regional district is saying good-bye to two long-time staff members. Josie Rohne, facility manager at Strathcona Gardens, and Beth Rees, the regional district’s community services manager, are both retiring.