Budget debate focuses on H.J McFarland

Prince Edward County council file photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

Prince Edward County council file photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

Staffing issues and the future redevelopment of H.J. McFarland Home took centre stage Thursday afternoon while County council poured over its proposed $31.7 million operating budget for 2016.

Council ultimately added $252,000 in expenditures increasing the tax hike to 3.5 per cent, 1.8 after growth.

Deliberations reached a heated point while council looked at the how it’s costing the County $600,000 a year to contract Saint Elizabeth Health Care to provide interim senior administration since the dismissal of the home’s two senior managers in 2014. (Lori Kimmett, director of care and Beth Piper, administrator.)

Mayor Robert Quaiff raised the issue that while it looks like the municipality is saving over $267,200 a year with the removal of the aforementioned wages, it’s actually costing the County $332,800 more with Saint Elizabeth.

“Somewhere along the lines that has to be addressed, whether it’s worth that additional money or not” Quaiff said in an interview. “In my opinion, looking at the master plan overall we’ve got to do a complete reconstruction by 2025, that’s about $332,000 that can be set aside in a contingency that can be put towards new renovation and or the re-build of H.J. McFarland Home.”

The mayor said council still has to get all of that data before making any final decisions pointing to a full audit report of the home that is due back on December 15.

While the Saint Elizabeth contract is up in June, many councillors around the horseshoe found the idea of hiring a new Care Coordinator to oversee all documentation entry to the tune of $70,000 hard to swallow.

The new non-UNIFOR supervisor position would oversee all documentation entered by personal support workers, a job that council learned Thursday is being completed by the Director of Care, Jenny Bedard.

Commissioner of Corporate Services Susan Turnball who oversees the home’s administration says told council the hiring of this new position is critical explaining the director is spending a great deal of her time on that and going forward there are other pressing issues she should be concentrating on.

“Eating her young may be too strong a term but we are finding staff is having difficulty asking me to do the documentation when they don’t finish it on their shift,” says Turnball.

Councillor Dianne O’Brien cautioned council on upping the tax base on a ‘maybe’ hiring decision because after they receive the audit report the position might not be needed.

“Tax payers are already struggling to pay their Hydro bills,” O’Brien said alluding to the added hiring cost increasing taxes as well.

“I think this responsibility falls on the Director of Care who appears to be very wealthy.”

Councillor Kevin Gale agreed with O’Brien stating he also had reservations about adding more staff when there are more pressing issues at the home at hand.

However, Councillor Treat Hull added to Turnball’s case for the hiring by explaining how the data collected goes to the province and depending on its completeness affects the County’s revenue stream around $110,000 annually.

Turnball again underscored the risk of losing ground at the home if the position was not filled. She pointed to a package council recently received with 20 written notifications on it that have to be completed at the home.

She told council there is a lot of work that is about to be done at in the home and they will find in the upcoming audit report that not all of it has to do with staffing.

“There are a lot of environmental issues. There are a lot of long standing issues where things have been deferred again and again, again and again.” We still have to be in that building for another 10 years and I caution you that we are having trouble with a Unifor employee acting as a coordinator and disciplining staff that is not complying with the legislation, that is the need for this position.”

Council ultimately decided against the new hire.

Of the items included in operations were the the hiring of a Locate and Data Collector technician; an IT supervisor and assistant museum curator.

The County will enter into a $30,000, three year partnership with the Prince Edward Community Foundation thus hiring three coordinator positions.

Council also gave the green light to live streaming meetings.

Council reduced its tree planting budget from $35,800 to $20,000.

At the start of the day council heard safety issues surrounding the well traveled Wilson Road in Hallowell Ward that were raised by resident Lyle Lloyd.

Wilson Road in Hallowell Ward.

Wilson Road in Hallowell Ward.

Lloyd presented council with a petition containing 19 signatures requesting that the deteriorating connecting link between County Roads 1 and 2 be reconstructed faster than the 2018 timeline.

The full reconstruction carries a $3.2 million price tag.

Lloyd described what he calls a dangerous and bumpy ride down the road with crowning issues and never ending potholes.

He says there are also safety issues when meeting oncoming traffic particularly school buses; swerving, dodging and hoping that you will not sink into one of these potholes at the wrong time.

Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works Robert McAuley says in the meantime staff can examine how to take care of it on the short term.

Later throughout the meeting McAuley told council road maintenance and winter control are big issues facing the municipality in the 2016 budget.

The cost projected for 2016 is at $10.7 million, $214,000 over 2015 given the harsh winter conditions in the County residents endured from December 2014 – spring 2015.

The County is still working to recoup some of the $766,000 in lost revenue during the ice storm of 2014.

In an interview McAuley said that as long as the mild winter conditions stay the way they are the municipality has a chance of mildly being over budget.

“If we get a big storm it will be over by a fair bit.”

An entire day has been set aside on Wednesday for water and waste water rates.

Council will look at community grant applications on Monday when budget talks resume at 9:30 at Shire Hall.

Day one recap.