Core services review suspense coming to end

Mayor Janice Perrino said it is too early to tell whether an on-going review of municipal services will lead to any staffing changes.

  • Jul. 5, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Mayor Janice Perrino said it is too early to tell whether an on-going review of municipal services will lead to any staffing changes.

Helios Group — a consulting service which has also reviewed services in Osoyoos and perhaps more ominously from the perspective of municipal employees in Penticton -— has been assessing district operations including staff levels since late April, early May.

Perrino said plans call for the review to wrap up by the end of the month following a recent meeting with the consulting company.

The contract — for which the district paid a “middle-of-the-road” figure of $40,000, according to Perrino — commits Helios to review various aspects of district operations.

The review will consider which municipal activities should be considered compulsory or discretionary, compare Summerland’s services and operations with those in similar municipalities and determine the best structure for municipal administration and operations.

This process, said Perrino, will see Helios Group assess staffing levels. But it is too early to tell how the eventual recommendations will affect staffing levels.

“I don’t know what the recommendations are,” said Perrino.

Experiences in other South Okanagan communities which hired Helios Group suggest a range of possible outcomes.

Whereas Helios did not recommend any lay-offs in Osoyoos, the core service in Penticton led to the lay-off of some 30 municipal position, a move that strained relations between the political leadership of the community, affected managers, the union representing affected municipal workers and the community-at-large.

Penticton has recently hired Helios Group again to review Global Spectrum, the private company charged with operating four municipally-owned facilities, including the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Perrino highlighted the different experiences of Osoyoos and Penticton in noting that council retains the final right to make any decisions about implementing the recommendations of the review.

The district, she said, might not be able to implement recommendations for a variety of factors, including costs.

But there is no question that such a review has been long over-due. Most municipalities of Summerland’s size go through a review of this kind every 10 years.

“It has been 15 years since we have done one,” she said. “It is time.”

The report -— whose findings will rest in part on interviews with staff — will include a public component, said Perrino.

While this review might come towards the end of this council’s term, it will benefit future ones, she said in identifying efficiencies and cost-savings.