The District of Sooke is undergoing significant administrative changes designed to enhance customer service, says Mayor Maja Tait.
Those changes, coupled with a spate of new hires taking place this year, create a situation where municipal staff need an appropriate workspace.
Getting that space may cost the district up to $260,000.
A staff report to council stated office space at Municipal Hall has reached capacity, and there is no where to put new staff.
The solution, said the report, is to buy a satellite structure (similar to portables used by school districts) that would be installed at Municipal Hall to allow for two offices, nine work stations, and a meeting room.
“Since [chief administrative officer] Norm McInnis joined us in July, he’s done a really great job. He’s conducted a full organizational review, done a service level review, and looked into all our bylaws, policies, and procedures,” Tait said.
“Last year, I commented that it was our 20 year anniversary [since the District of Sooke’s incorporation], but now it was time for Sooke to come into its own and chart a future direction.”
Part of charting that direction is to fill long-standing vacancies in the district as well bringing on additional staff members.
“Last week we concluded interviews for the planning and development director, and this week we will finalize the interviews for the director of finance,” McInnis said. “After that we’ll be interviewing for the director of operations.
McInnis detailed a host of administrative changes within the district staff and emphasized the professionalism of staff in helping to develop a new approach within the administration.
“We have needed someone on the ground to make sure that the machine is operating properly, and, with Norm, we finally have that,” Tait said.
But in order to house the staff, the additional office and meeting space is critical, Tait said.
The request came at the same time as major renovations to the existing Municipal Hall is required, just to ensure the building is brought up to the B.C. Building Code.
Speaking in support of the funding request, Coun. Al Beddows said, that “if the CAO’s office needs to be gutted, we don’t want him to have to work from his car.”
That position was mirrored by comments from Coun. Jeff Bateman, who said the provision of office space to staff was part of a healthy, respectful workspace.
“Staff are squeezed in here now and there just isn’t anyplace to put them,” he said.
Two councillors, Megan McMath and Ebony Logins, were not in support of the concept.
“I don’t think it’s time to add things to the budget,” Logins said.
“The plan was to find it (funding) through accumulated surplus so that it isn’t a tax issue.”
That concern came despite an estimate of anticipated costs were included in the draft 2020-2024 Five Year Financial Plan and the report stated the purchase of the unit will have no effect on this year’s property tax rates.
Council approved the expenditure with only McMath and Logins voting against the funding.