My little town

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North Grenville is a happening place these days. In this issue, we have articles about the salaries of municipal managers, the Police Services Board, a new Client Satisfaction Survey, theatre and book reviews, news about Hey Day, the Sustainability Fair and the BIA Bunny Hop. There’s something on a young local musician being recognised, and a local business owner joining a national Canadian team for an international competition. Yes, this is quite a place, North Grenville.

There are aspects which may be questioned by some residents, particularly the discussion of municipal staff salaries, published in the Sunshine List by the Ontario Government. There are those, possibly the named staff among them, who would object to having someone’s salary published in a local newspaper. People, generally, are very uneasy about having others know what they earn in their job.

But there is a different aspect to this. These are people working for us, paid with our tax dollars, and should, therefore, be answerable to us for their performance. It is not a question of criticising individuals, but when anyone earns more than $100,000 a year, not to mention when six people do in one municipality like ours, it is fair to ask questions. The CAO got a pay raise of more than 17% last year. Salaries for these six managers went up by almost 20% for the second year in a row. Is this sustainable, or even warranted? Let’s be honest: that’s a lot of money.

The CAO in North Grenville is recognised as a top manager, and someone who was basically doing two or three jobs during the negotiation of the Kemptville College property. It is said that, if you want to get the highest quality people, you need to pay the highest salaries to attract them, or retain them. The same may be said about each of the other positions where people are earning those salaries.

North Grenville is said, usually by people in the Municipal Centre, to be the fastest growing municipality in Ontario. The statistics don’t seem to bear this out, but there is no doubt that we are growing not Green, but definitely Growing. This growth requires very careful direction if we are not to become a dormitory catchment area for Ottawa, or just a large area of concrete with houses. This, in turn, requires that we have an experienced and qualified staff to provide support to elected officials, and direction to business and residents according to the Municipal Act’s provisions.

The complaint that has been made of North Grenville in past years has been that, as a municipality, we lack vision, exist in a very narrow world without a proper understanding of what’s happening around us. It has been pointed out that North Grenville can be a Black Hole, a place where light doesn’t enter, oblivious to practical things like funding sources, ideas and projects from which other communities benefit. And there has been a certain validity to those claims.

But is that the fault of staff alone, one wonders? There is something to be said for the idea that the lack of leadership at the political level did little to encourage staff to be visionary or even very committed. Successive Councils have been very poor at taking initiatives, putting the effort into learning what was available in terms of funds, ideas, or information. How much expertise has been at their disposal within the community, only to be ignored? Where did the municipal committees go to, groups of residents that might have been the spark by which new ideas could be introduced into municipal thinking?

Staff can only implement what Council directs, it is said. That’s a little unrealistic, but where there is a vacuum of leadership, staff can’t be expected to fill the void. Though, as a matter of fact, that is what has happened too often in the past. But we may have a change in the air. Much has been said about the new Council, and most of that has been positive. The new Client Satisfaction Survey (which is discussed elsewhere in this issue) is a joint initiative of members of Council and local business people. It was not, apparently, warmly welcomed by staff, but there is a political leadership in place which is driving the necessary changes forward.

Senior Management in North Grenville is earning large salaries, rising consistently over the last few years. Some will question their tax dollars going to support such lucrative positions, but maybe that will prove to be a benefit to us all as the new partnership, with a proper balance between leadership and support staff, provides vision, direction and focus for our growing community. Maybe it will be worth the money.

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