Using costumes from the Highlands Little Theatre and recruiting local thespians historians and a horse Yours Outdoors organized a meet and greet for a group of motorcycle tourists who came to the Highlands to post about their experiences. /Photo provided by Barrie Martin

Review suggests one municipal building fewer fire stations in HE

By Sue Tiffin

After conducting surveys and face-to-face interviews with municipality staff and councillors over the summer Matthew Savino and Dennis Geelen of Savino Human Resources Partners presented a report titled Highlands East Organization Assessment Results and Recommendations to Highlands East council on Oct. 8.

The report made recommendations on categories including efficiencies facilities and organization structure that included reducing the number of fire stations in the municipality implementing a meeting protocol to support a “one-team” mentality creating one office located centrally for staff and changing the organization structure including having an elected deputy mayor.

“Highlands East has made many great strides in the past few years in an attempt to streamline their operations maximize the use of their current facilities and increase the communication and common goals of the municipality” reads the report from the Peterborough-based consulting firm. SHRP recommended changes be made over a two- to three-year time period.

Of physical infrastructure SHRP said “with the large number of facilities that are still in operation it is not financially prudent for the municipality to continue to run and maintain each of them.”

To alleviate financial pressures and “not create too large of a customer service impact in the immediate future” it was recommended to reduce the number of facilities in operation including cutting fire stations from five down to three or four.

“It is suggested that the municipality look at their volume of calls in the proximity of each fire station as well as the cost and availability of neighbouring communities to help cover in the event of emergencies” reads the report.

One facility located somewhere central – likely Wilberforce – within the municipality should be used as an office for all administrative staff and department heads according to the recommendations.

“Wilberforce would be a [good] location for such a facility however the current municipal office there is not large enough to accommodate all of the staff” the report reads. “It is suggested that the municipality look at options for larger office space in the Wilberforce area.”

Regarding efficiencies the report noted that “[s]ome key resources wear many hats and can become bottlenecks in the flow of certain tasks or services. It is recommended that education and cross training initiatives be undertaken to increase the skill-set and knowledge of other staff members.”

It was also recommended that a more streamlined meeting protocol be used after the consulting group noted through common themes that “[c]ouncil the leadership team and staff have very different perspectives [on] various topics such as: customer service expenses priorities etc.” and “[d]epartments within the municipality do not always have formal methods in place for communicating important information”

Besides recommending some departments change where they report to a recommendation was made that the deputy mayor be elected rather than appointed by council after an election beginning with the next election in part to bring the municipality in line with neighbouring and other similar communities.

Back in April the consulting firm offered one of three proposals in response to a request for proposal.
“SHRP identified the key objectives for this review will be to ensure that the Municipality of Highlands East’s organizational structure staffing service delivery model organizational processes and employee compensation systems and policies are effective and represent up-to-date best practice” reads a report from Highlands East CAO and treasurer Shannon Hunter at that time. “In addition SHRP will be responsible for developing and confirmation of a compensation program which is compliant with current legislation including pay equity. SHRP’s review will include input received from key stakeholders (staff and council).”

“Council will consider recommendations through strategic planning and budget processes” Hunter told the Echo.

The cost of the review was reported in April to be $27925.