August 03, 2016 - 4:30 PM
PENTICTON - Penticton city council is beefing up its communications staff in the hopes of improving public engagement.
Council decided last night, Aug. 2, to hire an "engagement contractor" for approximately a year-and-a-half at a cost of $85,000 annually.
Economic development officer Colleen Pennington told council the contractor’s purpose would be to refine the public engagement process and develop marketing and engagement strategies to induce participation from a broader base of the city’s population.
Pennington said citizens have been clear in their opinion the city is not meeting their needs for community consultation, adding the process of engagement has been a challenging one.
The new hire would also be expected to reduce the cost of external consulting for projects such as the Facilities Master Plan.
Pennington told council the city’s present communications officer was overworked, with additional significant projects such as the Official Community Plan, the Facilities Master Plan and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan requiring an increasing amount of the communication officer's time.
She asked council to consider a three-year hiring term assuring them the responsibilities of the position could then be transferred back to the communications officer role, seeking $85,000 annually to fund $70,000 in wages and $15,000 for annual engagement platform software servicing and maintenance.
Coun. Helena Konanz looking to delay a decision on the request until budget discussions for 2017, a sentiment also expressed by Coun. Tarik Sayeed.
“We always need one more person,” Konanz said, expressing fears that once hired, the position would become permanent.
Coun. Max Picton said the city wasn’t effectively communicating with the public, noting the city was also “being aggressive, taking on a lot.”
“We can’t do all that with our existing staff count,” Picton said, adding there was a time and need now to ramp up.
Council had a tough time coming to terms with the length of the position with a motion to approve funding until November 2017 finally carried by council.
It is anticipated the new position will be funded through a budget amendment this year and inclusion in the 2017 budget. Staff also recommend tapping into the Community Plan, Facilities and Parks Plan, and Recreational Master Plan budgets for an estimated $28,000 of the 2017 budget requirement for the position.
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