A tsunami is washing up on our shores when it comes to a looming staffing crisis says Hastings County Chief Administrative Officer Jim Pine.
Thursday, CAO Pine addressed Prince Edward County’s committee of the whole advising the municipality to get ahead of a huge staffing shortage that will occur in the very near future once they retire.
“We are a business that needs to ensure we have our resources, human resources are absolutely critical in the municipal world,” said Pine. “Yes we need the province as a partner in this (when it comes to educating young people in college and university on the municipal jobs available) and we’ve been talking to them. But we need to take our own responsibilities and start dealing with it or at least being made aware of it. The bottom line is we need to talk about it and doing something about it because three years is not a long time.”
In his presentation Pine explained how the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) has 275,000 active members averaging 46 years of age. 135,000 are pensioners at the average age of 72 years old. Seventy-three percent are full-time and 27 percent part-time. Pine said 51 percent of senior staff are eligible to retire in four years. Forty-four percent are between the ages of 50 and 65 with seven percent between the ages of 29 and 40.
“We have a 50 percent rate of probable retirement in Hastings County by 2010,” said Pine. “Twenty percent of all police officers and fire fighters can retire by 2020 and they all do at the age of 60.”
Pine said in the next five years an additional 51,000 members will become eligible to retire.
“My concern is as people leave there is a gap coming,” he said. “That corporate memory is walking out the door and so is that capacity. Recruitment is difficult because you can spend a long time convincing young people to get into municipal government.
Those aren’t the only challenges facing municipalities according to Pine. He said there is a lack of entry level jobs, a lack of financial support for internships, the requirement for experience is five years and there is not enough focus on creating “employer of choice” conditions.
Pine said the answer is to talk about it and recognize that it is coming, create champions at a local level and develop strategies.
There is $20,000 budgeted in Hastings County for internships Pine said. They are also working closely with Loyalist College and Ryerson University who has developed a job matching tool they are using to aid in recruitment.
Mayor Robert Quaiff said the County is committed to addressing the issue.
Picton councillor Lenny Epstein suggested developing a focus group aimed at looking into creating recruitment strategies by having young municipal workers share their experiences with others.
Staff will be looking into it and bring a report back to council.
The discussion of an upcoming expansion at Picton Port Terminals made its way from Hastings back to the County of Prince Edward Thursday afternoon.
Co-owner Ben Doornekamp echoed his earlier presentation to the committee explaining the port has already invested $10 million in the $40 million project and is seeking $10 million in government support for two huge cranes to get underway next year.
Doornekamp is seeking the investment to help keep the business competitive in a demanding marketplace.
Currently it takes 600 trucks to fill one vessel at the port with the business servicing roughly 30 ships a year.
Concerns over an increase in trucks travelling down an already exhausted Highway 49 once the expansion is complete were quickly raised by councillor Janice Maynard.
“If Highway 49 was new than we wouldn’t have these issues,” agreed Doornekamp.
Quaiff explained to the committee that the municipality is using this expansion as a catalyst in upcoming discussions with a handful of provincial ministers not only for port funding but the highway as well.
Those meetings will be taking place in Toronto on May 17 and June 7.
Like Hastings County, the committee carried a motion to support the Doornekamp’s plan to expand and lobby the province for funds.
In other business, a new restaurant planned for Lake on the Mountain is one step closer to having its site plan approved.
Following a recent Ontario Municipal Board Hearing, it was concluded that the Brasserie restaurant was required to provide off street parking for safety reasons.
The OMB Decision resulted in one onsite barrier free parking space and eight offsite regular spaces required for the Brasserie restaurant. The required off site parking spaces are to be secured through the registration of a site plan agreement on title for both the Lake on the Mountain Resort property and the Brasserie property.
The matter will come back to council for final approval.
Finally, an Ameilasburgh councillor wants the horseshoe to trim more fat come budget time.
Roy Pennell sparked discussion asking council to consider a five percent decrease in the 2017 budget.
“Since 2013 there has been a 6.3 percent increase in taxes,” said Pennell. “Since amalgamation (1998) 11.5 percent.” I would hope that next year we will look at proposing every department take a look at their budget and come back with a five percent reduction. We should start looking to the future. The roads are atrocious and tourists see that. We have to rebuild H.J. McFarland Home. Where is that money going to come from?”
Councillor Gordon Fox and mayor Quaiff commended Pennell for his desire to cut costs but both agreed that would result in services being slashed, something they couldn’t get behind.
“I don’t know where you would start a five percent reduction,” said Quaiff. “We have come a long way and there are costs we have no control over like OPP, land ambulance and fire. You’re going to have to cut service. Plus I think the timing is wrong, you need a preliminary budget in your hand to have this discussion.”
Council meets again on May 10 at 7 p.m.