In spite of all the danger

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Surrounded as we are by bad news, dangers to our health, physical and economic, and all the daft conspiracy theories taking over from rational thinking, North Grenville is actually doing rather well these days. The Chief Administrative Officer [CAO] of North Grenville, Gary Dyke, has presented a Report to council reviewing the status of the municipality in terms of administrative development, growth, and finances. In a 45-page document, the CAO covered a range of topics, such as Budget Development & Management, the Council Work Plan, Organizational Changes and Initiatives, and an Update on Covid-19’s impact on the financial situation in the municipality. [There is a separate report on that aspect of the Report elsewhere in this issue).

The 2019/2020 – CAO Municipal Operational Report places the emphasis on the responsibility of council and municipal staff to consult with residents and make room for community input. Gary Dyke has made some significant changes to both the personnel and job descriptions of senior staff, as well as to the format and reporting of council meetings. This has an impact on staff and their work environment.

“It is important that we create an environment that will facilitate and value the input that we receive from the community; this information will play a vital role in the development of our business planning and budget process”, he says in the Report. “ We will make every effort to ensure that we have ongoing engagement opportunities for a meaningful impact on the future of North Grenville.”

The Report deals with the changes in personnel since the CAO arrived in North Grenville. We have a new Chief Administrative Officer; Director of Finance/Treasurer; Municipal Clerk; and Deputy Treasurer. That’s quite a turnover of personnel for a municipality of this size. But there is a perceptible improvement in morale, as far as can be judged from the outside.

Much of the Report deals with the financial sector of municipal operations, and it is, generally speaking, a good news story. “The focus on our new process is to maximize meaningful public engagement and information sharing as part of the budget development process. To this end, public budget information sessions were held in the community and a new ‘Budget Information Book’ was developed that explained the municipal budget in a manner easily understood by the public.”

The 2019 Financial Update contained the fact that “2019 resulted in a traditional surplus reported excess of revenue over expenditure of approximately $436,000″. This result came largely, says the Report, from better than expected revenues from investment, while supplemental taxes contributed an additional $262,000. “Waste diversion and landfill generated approximately $182,000 in additional revenues and ice rentals were higher than expected at $133,000. Administration, wages and honorarium expenses were also down $257,000. These excesses were offset by a shortfall on building permit revenue of approximately $205,000, combined with an operating excess expenditure at the College of approximately $382,000. Other expense overages included: $62,000 road aggregates, $48,000 in waste tipping, $40,000 of unbudgeted insurance expenses, and $25,000 for tax write-offs. The balance of the excess was related to miscellaneous unbudgeted operating and capital revenue and expense savings.

2019 Water & Wastewater resulted in a traditional surplus reported excess of revenue over expenditure of approximately $1.39M.”

All in all, a very positive Report by a CAO who has gained quite a good reputation with council, staff, and the public. Now, in the recent past, this paper has been accused of being “the mouthpiece” of this council. Of course, we’ve also been called “the Pravda of North Grenville”. I’m not sure where that leaves us; but, assuming that mayor and council can stand up for the people of NG over the proposed prison, for or against, successfully or not, then I think credit where credit is due. Those of us who remember some previous mayors and councils can only appreciate a change for the better.

The world is in a pretty bad state right now. Autocratic regimes may be creeping into North America, and unacceptable numbers of people are dying every day from a pandemic we seem unable to overcome. But let’s, for now at least, focus on some positives. Cynicism and caution may have its place, but where there’s reason to be, let’s remain positive and try, as the cliché goes, to be the answer we seek. Or is that too naive for this generation?

1 COMMENT

  1. A Council and CAO which respects its residents, makes ongoing efforts to enhance transparency, increases reporting and answers requests for information goes a long way towards engaging the public and demonstrating that hard earned tax payers monies are well spent. Congrats for having elected such a progressive Mayor and Council. Hopefully Merrickville residents can have a similar frame of mind at the next election.

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