By Matthew Liebenberg
An experienced administrator will be providing organizational leadership for the City of Swift Current until the appointment of a full-time chief administrative officer (CAO).
The position has become vacant due to the retirement of current CAO Tim Marcus at the end of January 2023.
Council members approved a motion at a regular council meeting on Jan. 9 to appoint Jim Jones, the City’s general manager of community services, as the interim CAO effective Feb. 1. He will serve in this role as long as council deems appropriate during the recruitment process for the permanent position.
Mayor Al Bridal noted the interim CAO will have all the powers, duties, accountabilities and functions of the CAO. He felt the interim appointment is important within the context of a key goal in the City’s five-year strategic plan about organizational structure, which aims to strengthen its people, leadership and governance.
“The goal’s intent is to continue to improve the organization through effective recruitment and retention, through commitment to professional development, and through clear internal communication,” he said. “It is incumbent on council to ensure consistent leadership is established while effective recruitment for the permanent role is taking place and to clearly communicate the appointment of its interim CAO.”
The CAO is the administrative head of the City. The person in this position must therefore oversee City operations and provide leadership to employees. The CAO is accountable to City council and responsible for leading the implementation of council’s priorities.
Jones has been the general manager of community services since 2019 and he previously served as interim CAO on occasions when Marcus was away on leave. Bridal said Jones’ years of experience in various roles makes him suitable for the position of interim CAO.
“Mr. Jones’ municipal career spans over two decades in various managerial and directorial positions throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta, built upon extensive experience in recreation, culture, community, development, agriculture, tourism and partnerships,” Bridal mentioned.
City eligible for federal public transit funding:
The City of Swift Current will receive a one-time amount of $28,460 from a federal public transit funding program that was created to support the economic recovery of municipalities from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council members approved a motion at their regular Jan. 9 council meeting to submit the Swift Transit operational expenses for the period 2019 to 2021 to the funding program and to authorize the mayor and City clerk to sign the funding agreement.
The federal government is providing one-time funding of $11.6 million from this program to municipalities in Saskatchewan. City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken said each municipality will receive an amount proportional to the average ridership of their public transit service recorded from 2015 to 2021.
Mayor Al Bridal expressed some reservations about the criteria used to determine the funding allocation to each municipality in the province. He felt the funding to the City of Swift Current would have been higher if it was a per capita allocation.
“So obviously some other cities are getting quite a bit more of their fair share than we are,” he noted.
Minken said after the meeting the funds will be used to offset operating costs for the Swift Transit service. The annual expense in the City budget for the service is over $200,000 and revenue from ridership tickets is around $80,000.
“It’s actually increasing right now,” he said about ridership. “We really saw a huge drop-off during COVID, like we dropped in half with our ridership during COVID. So now that we’re getting back to be more stable, we’re seeing that ridership come back up to our 2019 level. We’re doing some school runs and we’re doing some daycare runs now. So we’ve enhanced the program a bit, which is helping to increase our ridership as well.”
Purchase of digger derrick truck causes debate at council meeting:
The purchase of a new digger derrick truck was approved during the Jan. 9 council meeting, but there was also some debate between councillors about the City’s intention to keep the old truck.
A digger derrick truck is used by City Light and Power to dig holes and set utility poles. The existing truck has become unreliable due to electrical issues with the vehicle that occur intermittently. It has been in service since 2005.
Council members approved the purchase of a new truck at a cost of $360,034.30 (PST included, GST excluded). City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken indicated to the meeting that Light and Power wants to keep the existing truck as a backup unit that can be used occasionally to do pole changes without a power outage.
This prompted a response from Councillor John Wall, who felt this might set a precedent where City administration will in future try to hold on to equipment, thereby increasing the size and cost of the vehicle fleet.
Minken indicated the City will be able to operate both vehicles without a need for additional staff and expenses for the second unit will be low, because it will not be in full-time use. Other council members expressed support for keeping the older truck as a backup unit, because the recent expansion of the City Light and Power franchise area will result in more utility pole replacements.
The meeting approved an additional motion to accommodate Councillor Wall’s concern. It was therefore decided that Minken will table a report with details about the need to keep the old truck as a second unit at an upcoming meeting.