Cuts to planning staff have Lake Country staffers stretched thin

Business systems review saw the DLC streamline operations but staff can't take on new projects

Lake Country councillor Barbara Leamont says cuts to staffing are making it tough on DLC planners.

The District of Lake Country’s planning department is stretched to the point of not being able to take on more projects after staffing levels were cut in half following a business systems review in early 2012.

The issue of staffing levels at the District of Lake Country (DLC) was raised at this week’s council meeting after coun. Owen Dickie put forth a motion for staff to look into getting some signage in place in areas of the district where agriculture is taking place.

But the DLC’s chief administrative officer told council there is not enough staff to take on new projects without another one being removed from a priority list already approved by council.

“We don’t have the capacity to do this in house,” said De Feo. “We went through a review, we cut our staff in half, we cut the times to process applications in half, which is way better than any other place in the Okanagan,” said De Feo. “We are really pushing the limits here.”

Lake Country’s director of planning and development also told council that the cutbacks to staffing levels in the planning department has made it more difficult to operate, especially since staff has been asked to deal with files in the same time or quicker than in the past.

“The difficult part is the expectation has remained the same in terms of file times,” said Koch. “There are areas that we would like to spend some time around some policy improvements. There are a number of examples around the community that need some attention but we are not able to get to.”

Koch pointed to the amount of building containers in and around the community and how they are stored as one area that has no policy in Lake Country but needs some attention.

With current staffing levels, those kinds of issues cannot be dealt with, he said.

“The planning file load has been increased over the years and our capacity is extremely stretched,” said Koch.

Most councillors had their say on the issue with coun. Dickie asking that the agriculture land committee be able to do the work instead of staff.

De Feo said he was concerned with the legalities of a committee doing such work while Koch said working with volunteer committees still takes plenty of staff time.

Coun. Barbara Leamont also jumped into the issue.

“(We) cut the department in half and expect them to continue with the same work and then add more work and ask staff to process applications twice as fast,” she said. “We have a lot of things in planning that need to be done that are not getting done.”

In the end, coun. Dickie amended his motion and council will ask its agriculture land committee to report back to them on the status of agriculture in progress signs that the district already has access to.

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