Deliberations for Budget 2021 are underway and administration is proposing to eliminate the emergency management position that was recently vacated by Doug Gillard.
The city has refused to comment on Gillard’s departure.
The proposed 2021 budget reveals that the responsibilities attached to the emergency management role – overseeing the emergency dispatch supervisor and six emergency dispatchers – are proposed to be re-added to the duties of the fire chief.
The city says the proposal is a cost-cutting measure due to financial pressures incurred from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Emergency preparedness/management remains a core function of municipal governments and this function continues to be managed within the public safety department,” stated Alison Harrower, spokesperson for the city in an email on Nov. 16. “The manager of emergency preparedness position is not included in Budget 2021. In the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, administration is looking at ways to reduce the impact on taxes for residents, as was illustrated through the proposed tax increase presented earlier this month.”
In a Sept. 17 email, Harrower had first confirmed that the emergency management manager position was vacant after NNSL Media pointed out that neither Gillard’s name nor the job title appeared in the staff directory.
She added that the emergency management manager position – “a core function” of municipal government – helps manage emergencies like forest fires, winter power outages and even pandemics.
“They also help us manage during unexpected scenarios like the Covid-19 pandemic,” Harrower stated.
Asked about the possible discrepancy of needing to manage Covid-19 while also cutting that “core position” due to costs involving the pandemic, Harrower said that cuts can be made while safety is prioritized.
While the city is looking at ways to reduce the impact on taxes for residents, the top priorities remain public and staff safety and continued essential service delivery, she stated.
“The city assures residents that the core function of emergency preparedness/management is and will continue to be managed within the public safety department,” said Harrower.
A council meeting was scheduled on Monday night to hear public feedback regarding the budget but no one showed up and the event was quickly adjourned.
Council will review the budget and enter deliberations starting Nov. 30.
The document is expected to be passed early next month.