Mission council has agreed in principle to hire a manager of asset/infrastructure, and one for citizen engagement and corporate initiatives.
The group unanimously supported both positions, but not without debate on the latter position.
Councillors Tony Luck and Dave Hensman needed some convincing to support the recommendations which came out of the core services review because their party, CRMG, campaigned against such a position. Hensman believes the current council has already improved communication with the public.
“I’m very skeptical of governments having to hire someone to communicate their message,” said Luck. “We ran on a promise of not having a spin doctor, but at the same time, I can appreciate the benefits of having someone like this.”
Coun. Jenny Stevens, who sat on the last council, explained the current position being proposed is much broader and will benefit the district.
“It’s not the ‘spin doctor,'” said Stevens, explaining the last council hired a communications officer because it was getting bad press and wanted to put out good stories. “I sat at this table last year and ranted against a spin doctor.”
Mayor Ted Adlem agreed and noted the job description is not fully finished.
“I work with senior staff every day and I know senior staff struggle to get the message out. They’re not trained and are rather overwhelmed [with their work].”
Communication is a two-way street, said Coun. Jeff Jewell.
“The public doesn’t have a clear idea what council is doing and we don’t have a clear idea what the public wants. If we don’t do this, the gap will remain.”
After being on council for nearly a year, we can’t survive without it, added Coun. Larry Nundal.
“We need it internally too, not just external.”
The manager of citizen engagement and corporate initiatives would lead consultations with stakeholders and the public as well as provide information. The budgetary impact is estimated to be between $75,000 (based on an annual salary of $60,000) and $90,000 (based on an annual salary of $75,000).
A manager of asset/infrastructure would be proactive in terms of asset/infrastructure planning, including the rehabilitation, replacement and maintenance of roads, water and sewer systems, facilities and other district assets.
The book value of Mission’s infrastructure is about $1 billion, added Jewell, but it’s not being managed, except in crisis mode.
This position would require funds estimated between $98,000 (based on an annual salary of $80,000) and $123,000 (based on an annual salary of $100,000).
The positions and costs won’t be finalized until the budget is complete in November, but Hensman suggested following the province’s example and decrease the starting wages by 10 per cent.
Coun. Nelson Tilbury suggested offering the lower wage and increase it if it doesn’t attract the right person.
“It’s easy to move up,” said Hensman. “If you start lower, you have room to negotiate.”
The two positions, if approved at the end of the budget process, will be advertised in December.