Town councillor Shawn Mesheau says he is frustrated with what he says is a lack of direction from the current council and he is calling for improved leadership from his fellow colleagues in the coming months.
Mesheau brought forward a number of motions during council’s monthly meeting last Monday night in an effort to place a greater emphasis on long-term planning, reviewing municipal services, and improving the annual budgeting process.
“I believe, at eight months into our mandate, we as a council have let the staff down in not providing direction on initiatives that need to happen to ensure we are working in the best interest of all our community,” he said.
In particular, Mesheau pointed to this year’s operating and utility budget negotiations, in which he felt the process was rushed – not leaving enough time for members of council to ensure the town is managing its finances in line with the objectives for the coming year.
“We did not provide guidance to staff in what we felt needed to be addressed and we did not allot enough time to ensure citizens were engaged for their input,” he said.
One of Mesheau’s motions called for the town’s treasurer and finance committee to develop a policy for the annual budgeting process – which would ensure deliberations start earlier in the fall (with meeting dates starting in September), and include council priorities and consultation with taxpayers. He also requested council be provided with monthly financial statements so as to be kept up to date on the progress throughout the year.
Mesheau also brought forward a motion requesting an incentive program be developed for town managers and employees which would encourage reward for performance – such as developing initiatives that will provide more effective and efficient delivery services.
“I believe we have a high-functioning staff who are capable in thinking outside the box in finding ways to deliver services and maybe create new services. However we are not encouraging this in a way that staff are recognized for thinking outside the box as oppose to taking a status quo approach.”
He also presented a motion that would see each municipal department begin a comprehensive review of its services to garner a better understanding of the service and the individuals it reaches, which would include a financial breakdown of the service and cost recovery.
“We, as a council, need to take the initiative to review services with our staff, ensuring they are sustainable for years to come and understand what the needs of the community will be in the future.”
Mesheau would also like to see council and the CAO begin monthly discussion meetings centered specifically on the council priorities list in order to develop action plans, “to ensure we are moving forward on the priorities.”
None of Mesheau’s motions were approved, however, with his fellow councillors saying they wanted to wait until a new chief administrative officer was in place before putting any new policies or procedures into action.
“I appreciate the spirit of these motions. These are goals we should work on . . .but the timing of it is a challenge,” said Coun. Margaret Tusz-King.
Tusz-King said she will bring these motions forward to the personnel committee to discuss how they might be put into action when a CAO is hired this spring.
Coun. Ron Corbett agreed.
“I think a lot of these will be done. But our issue right now is staffing,” said Corbett.
With no CAO or economic development director currently in place at town hall, Corbett said the town staff is going full-tilt, with many of them overloaded already.
Coun. Bruce Phinney echoed that sentiment.
“I do feel these will be addressed as soon as we have a full complement of staff,” he said.
Mayor Bob Berry credited Mesheau for the hard work and effort he put into the motions, saying the “substance of the motions is good” but the timing isn’t.
“Once we get that complement of staff, we will move forward,” said Berry.
But Mesheau argued council should be pushing ahead despite being short-staffed.
“We, as a council, must stop thinking that the hiring of a CAO will be the catalyst to better things,” he said. “It is us, as a council, that have to be the leaders. We must set the priorities and tone to ensure our community is here for another 250 years,” he said.