Nackawic-Millville council discussed recommendations from the rural community’s human resources committee to add three new full-time positions to its staff.
In its report introduced at council’s Oct. 3 meeting, the HR committee recommended hiring a full-time fire chief to oversee the rural community’s three fire departments.
The committee explained the single fire chief overseeing the operation of the Nackawic, Dumfries, and North York Fire Departments would reduce the current duplication of work and reports from three separate departments.
The committee also recommended that the council consider hiring a full-time recreation department employee immediately, then add another for the public works and utility department early in 2024.
Council agreed upcoming budget discussions could consider the costs for next year’s hires, but the town would need to determine where to find the funds to pay for the last two months of 2023 for the immediate addition of a full-time recreation staff member.
Coun Colin Trail, a member of the HR committee, acknowledged that the council will have to address staffing levels “down the road.”
The committee report explained the immediate hiring in recreation would put an extra staff member in place in time for the winter ice season.
CAO Kathryn Clark suggested part of the new employee’s pay could come from savings in reduced cost for casual labour.
The committee’s recommendation to hire a full-time fire chief suggested that the new employee oversee the rural community’s protective services.
“It was thought that possibly creating a new position to take on the administrative role of running the three stations would allow volunteer firefighters more time to concentrate on training and responding to calls,” the committee stated in its report.
The report also noted that an interim fire chief currently heads North York, while the Dumfries chief would like to take on a lesser role.
“A new fire chief would lighten the load of all station chiefs,” said Councilor and committee member Robert Simpson.
During discussions surrounding all suggestions for new staff members, council agreed it must consider the impact on taxpayers.
Deputy Mayor Greg MacFarlane, who chaired the Oct. 3 council meeting in the absence of Mayor Tim Fox, wanted more information.
“I would like to see more data on the budget,” he said. “We have to see if the money is there.”
Simpson agreed but noted the workload on both the recreation and public works departments is growing substantially. He said both departments’ duties will extend to wards outside Ward 3 to deliver services in the former local service districts.
He also noted the expanding Nackawic waterfront puts additional demands on municipal employees.
Coun. Errol Graham, who, like Coun. Michael Arbuckle, attended the Oct. 3 meeting remotely, said he agreed taxpayers if wards outside the former Town of Nackawic must share the cost of a new fire chief.
He questioned, however, whether taxpayers in the outside wards should help foot the bill for the recreation and public works employees whose work is primarily confined to Ward 3.
Simpson said he understood Graham’s point but noted residents in those areas regularly use Nackawic streets and facilities.
“I would like to think outside wards feel an ownership of our waterfront, arena, library, etc.,” he said.
Council agreed that before moving forward on an action, it must develop a clearer picture of its impact on taxes.
Council again discussed the HR Committee’s recommendations at the Oct. 16 council meeting following a memorandum from CAO Clark outlining the costs to add the new positions and new information regarding the town’s growing tax base.
She reported that the two recreation and public works positions would cost approximately $125,000 to fund. She said part of that cost would be covered by a reduction of $10,000 in casual labour expenditures.
Clark added the province informed her late last week that Nackawic-Millville’s tax base will increase by 9.7 per cent in 2024, adding $211,875 to the budget at current tax rates.
Coun. Arbuckle advised the council to proceed cautiously, noting the rural community already approved hiring an administrative assistant and is still determining the town’s cost for a planned head of Destination Nackawic in addition to the HR committee’s three proposed staff positions.
He added that the town must also deal with significant requests for equipment and other services.
“Does the Finance Committee want to weigh in on this,” Arbuckle asked.
Mayor Fox, who joined the discussion at the Oct.. 16 meeting after missing the Oct.. 3 session, noted staff and council are scheduled to begin budget sessions on Oct. 18.
He said council will discuss the issue during those meetings.
By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 17, 2023 at 16:37