BUDGET 2020: High staff injury rate, poor condition of parks driving up costs in Port Alberni

City's departmental budget presentations continue Dec. 4 with police, fire and technology

The City of Port Alberni has an injury rate higher than the provincial average, city council heard on Tuesday.

City council held the first of three committee of the whole meetings on Tuesday, Dec. 3 to hear departmental presentations on the 2020-2024 budget.

City CAO Tim Pley offered a combined presentation for administration, including information from the finance, human resources, clerks, bylaw services and communications departments.

READ MORE: Port Alberni proposes 5.1 percent tax increase for 2020

One of the biggest issues for the human resources department, he said, is the fact that the city has an injury rate higher than the industry average for B.C. municipalities.

“We’ve been taking some steps, making some efforts to bring that down,” said Pley. “But we’re on the wrong side of the average. We have employees who continue to sustain injuries at work. That’s bad on a number of fronts.”

Because of this, WorkSafeBC assessment rates are also higher than average, so the city is paying more for WorkSafeBC premiums than the average local government employer in the province.

Human resources manager Krista Tremblay explained on Tuesday that the primary cause of injury is strains—for example, musculoskeletal (MSI) injuries and overexertion.

“It’s easy to say those are hard to prevent,” she said. “But when we look at some of our statistics and as we compare with other municipalities…there’s got to be some additional strategies that we should be looking at.”

The city will continue to review injury prevention strategies and focus on the stay at work/return to work programs. Because the information around injuries is personnel-based and not something the city can talk about in public, staff will be updating council in an in-camera meeting.

Parks, Recreation and Heritage manager Willa Thorpe also made her presentation on Tuesday. One of her biggest issues is the aging infrastructure within the city’s 45 parks and playgrounds.

“There’s so much old infrastructure coming up for renewal at the same time,” said Thorpe. “I’d like to press council to consider whether we can afford to renew all infrastructure at the same time as it comes due.”

She suggested council could turn some of those playgrounds into green space, while focusing on one or two parks in town as “destination parks.”

Starting in 2020, the draft budget has $75,000 set aside to Parks and Recreation for a tree planting program. In 2021, the city will look at building a Quay to Quay path and updating and maintaining trails and signage.

“With the increased workload of planting trees, creating green spaces and trails and then also maintaining them…this will require an increase in staffing,” Thorpe said on Tuesday.

Because of this, the draft budget also includes funding for one new parks labourer position starting in 2021 at a cost of $122,000.

Departmental presentations will continue at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in council chambers with the RCMP, fire department and information technology.

These budget presentations are open to the public, are being livestreamed online and are available on the city’s website at www.portalberni.ca/budget. The departmental presentations will be posted the day after they are made public, City of Port Alberni communications manager Alicia Puusepp said.


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