The District of Port Edward was put under the microscope by the auditor general for local government and the resulting report suggested the small crew formalize their roles to improve its human resources.
With 10 district employees to serve a population of approximately 470 residents the report found that human resources practices are decentralized, informal, yet generally sufficient. However, with the looming potential that the liquefied natural gas industry may develop on the North Coast, the auditor general made some recommendations to prepare for possible future growth.
The planned performance audit took place in the fall 2016 where auditors spent a week in the district examining the daily operations of the community. The focus of the audit was on “managing the inherent risks of limited human resources within small local governments.”
Five municipalities were selected, Fernie, Nelson, Squamish, Tofino and Port Edward, which was the smallest of them all. The report found that the district has no dedicated human resources capacity but despite this it has mitigated risks despite its limitations.
Chief administrative officer Bob Payette will take on the recommendations starting with formalizing roles and cross-training staff.
“We have financial processes that we need to formalize procedurally and we’ll probably tackle that first. The concept is, if our finance officer in the north gets sick for longer than a couple weeks then we’ll want to make sure that whoever is available can do the job, and we’ll cross-train,” Payette said.
Payette said they are looking at their human resource practices to make sure that they’re able to handle the workload of administering the industry in town.
“We want to make sure we’re following the best practices as possible because if LNG hits we’re going to be exponentially busy.”
Port Edward’s population has been in decline since the 1990s, but that will change, at least temporarily, once construction begins on the AltaGas propane terminal. By March or April the district expects work camps for 200 people to be up and running.
The auditor also recommended that Port Edward consider shared service arrangements with its neighbour to address capacity challenges that comes with industrial growth. Mayor Dave MacDonald said the district has shared agreements with Prince Rupert, listing the fire department, bus services, IT support and garbage disposal.
“Is there more we can share? Probably, but Port Ed is not busy enough. But if we got busier then that is something we could look at,” Payette said adding that they could look into sharing building permit inspection services.