City administrators say the municipal government would benefit from 13 new full-time equivalent positions.
Administration presented a list of these positions, which include a climbing wall co-ordinator, a municipal engineer, a safety officer and two water and sewer maintenance workers, to city council on Monday at a meeting of the Municipal Services Committee.
Councillors were somewhat taken aback by the lengthy list of proposed positions.
“The main reaction I had to this when I saw it – 13 positions being recommended – of course is, how are we going to afford this?” said Coun. Julian Morse.
Morse asked how many positions administration realistically anticipates including in the 2019 budget and that adding so many new city staff could result in an “untenable tax raise” for Yellowknifers.
In previous years, directors whittled down lists of potential new staff ahead of presenting them to council, said senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett.
This year, administration decided to present council with an unfiltered rundown of the city’s staffing needs to get council’s take on the issue, she said.
Administration does not expect all 13 positions to be included in the 2019 budget, she continued.
The jobs listed are those that administration considers important to sustaining city services at their current levels, said Bassi-Kellett.
“We brought this forward knowing that there is a difficult conversation to be had at our level, as well as at the political level,” she said.
There was much debate over adding positions to the municipal government during last December’s budget deliberations.
At the time, administration said the city was loaded to the brim with projects and that staffing levels were not high enough to accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
Coun. Niels Konge said on Monday that based on the information available, he would not support any of the new proposed positions.
He said Yellowknife’s tax base had not increased enough to justify growing the municipal government.
According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, Yellowknife’s population has hovered just under 21,000 for the last three years.
“My political lens on this is this is not a list of our needs, this is a list very much of our wants and our wishes,” said Konge.
City mulls camera at pool
The city is considering installing a security camera at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.
City spokesperson Iman Kassam said an allegation was made recently against one person at the pool on Facebook and that pool staff notified the RCMP.
Kassam did not specify what the allegation was, but said the RCMP followed up with everyone involved and that the pool supervisor debriefed all staff.
The incident prompted a discussion on Monday about whether to install a camera at the lobby of the pool, facing the doorway.
Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s senior administrative officer, expressed skepticism over whether a camera without audio would effectively address problematic situations at the pool.
She said inappropriate behaviour could be better addressed by staff following safety protocols.
“Anytime that there’s cameras and people in bathing suits, that’s a highly sensitive issue,” said Bassi-Kellett.
The senior administrative officer is responsible for vetting each city-owned security camera.
Bassi-Kellett said she would need to fully understand the problem that would be addressed by installing a camera at the pool.
“We want to make sure we balance safety and security with ensuring the protection of privacy for residents as well,” she said.
The city instituted a security camera policy in February after it was alleged that Doug Gillard, the head of the Municipal Enforcement Division, used city security cameras, including one at the pool, to look at women he found attractive.
Allegations of the misuse of city security cameras are currently the subject of an independent inquiry into workplace misconduct at the bylaw enforcement division.
Bassi-Kellett says there has never be a camera at the pool.
According to Yellowknife’s security camera policy, a camera may be installed only when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the safety of the public and employees, and the protection of city property, and when there is no feasible, less-invasive way of ensuring that safety and protection.
Coun. Niels Konge said most shops in Yellowknife use cameras to deter theft and that he is in favour of having cameras at every city facility where staff are handling money from the public.
Yellowknife hotel room shortage may have cost city $2 million
Yellowknife lost out on about $2 million after two major vehicle manufacturers looking to do cold-weather testing could not find accommodations for their workers, says the regional manager of the Yellowknife airport.
Lee Stroman told city council on Monday that Mitsubishi and Brazilian aerospace company Embraer cancelled plans to do cold-weather testing in Yellowknife because they could not find hotel rooms to board their teams.
Stroman said Mitsubishi looked for 54 hotel rooms for 30 days, and that Embraer faced a similar situation.
Airbus and Sikorski Aircraft conducted cold-weather testing at the Yellowknife airport in 2016, and each contributed nearly $700,000 a month to the local economy while they were in the city, he said.
Stroman said a team from Korea will visit Yellowknife next week to find a location for a possible, multi-year cold-weather testing program.