by Colin Smith
Morinville Town Council and Administration are doing a good job in responding to the needs of a growing community, but there is room for improvement.
That’s the conclusion suggested by the report of the Organizational and Efficiency Review of Town operations done by Nichols Applied Management. Results of the review were officially presented to Council at its regular meeting Jan. 27 but were made public with the agenda package earlier. The report contains nearly 50 recommendations for Council and Administration.
Council authorized $100,000 for an independent organizational review in its 2014 budget and engaged the Nichols consulting firm for the project in August. During the four-month review, the consultants met with almost every Town of Morinville employee.
“The current Council was elected in October 2013 and has had what can be described as a good first year for a new council, especially a council with a new mayor and four first-time councillors,” its report states.
The consulting team gave top marks to Council on seven items of a 20-point list of things a municipal council should accomplish in its first year.
It determined Council had done a fine job of developing and working together as a team, conducting meetings and making decisions effectively, understanding the community’s fiscal realities and passing a budget, and engaging citizens and stakeholders.
Councillors were also seen as good at sticking to decisions, keeping confidential information confidential and not misusing their positions as elected officials.
Council’s efforts were seen as mixed on other points while it had yet to make progress in six other necessary accomplishments.
They are confirming a vision, adding priorities for the term, defining services and establishing service levels, initiating a comprehensive policy review process, approving and adopting a community engagement policy, and determining Council’s role in intergovernmental affairs.
“Council needs to pay more attention to establishing and pursuing its priorities for the term,” according to the report. “In this regard, the decision to move from three-year to four-year council terms in Alberta presents a good opportunity for Council. With more than a year ‘under its belt,’ Council is well-positioned to develop a strategic plan which identifies its priorities for the next three years.”
It points to reviewing and approving service levels for the Town was as another Council priority.
“While services and service levels are approved indirectly through the budget process, a thorough service level review process should be undertaken in 2015. This type of review should include analysis and updating of Council’s policy framework.”
CAO / Council relationship needs work
The consultants identified enhancement of its relationship with Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer as a critical goal for Council.
“While Council and the CAO have been working diligently to establish a strong working relationship, it is critically important they agree to implement a process to monitor the relationship and address concerns on an ongoing basis,” they write.
Morinville is advised to engage independent expertise to assist Council and the CAO to establish a new relationship framework.
According to the report, Town of Morinville Administration is in good shape. It is well organized and boasts a “strong majority” of committed, competent employees. It notes additional staff will be needed for improvement of financial planning and budgeting processes, and to support development of the new arena/recreation facility.
Community Services / Cultural Centre needs direction
However, the consultants feel steps have to be taken to improve the focus of Community Services, which they say is underperforming because of a lack of direction and Council support.
In addition, they propose the development of a long-term strategic plan for the Community Cultural Centre.
The report recommends that Morinville consider rebranding the Centre and consider governance options for it, including the establishment of a community advisory group.
Other recommendations include developing facility and equipment replacement plans, identifying community sponsorship opportunities, including naming rights, and establishing evidence-based revenue and cost-recovery targets for Centre operations.
This last recommendation is in line with a Council motion passed in June calling for a focus on cost recovery expectations for the different types of performances held there.
Council and Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun will work on developing an implementation plan for the report’s 23 Council and 25 Administrative recommendations within the next few months.
Suggested target dates for implementing the report recommendations are mainly in the first half of this year, with others stretching to later in the year and early 2016.
A complete set of Governance and Administrative recommendations are on pages 135-142 of the document.