The Community Operations 2020 Annual Report was received for information during the Feb. 16 Regular Meeting of Council.
In 2020, the Community operations department was reorganized and now includes the eco-centre, environmental services, parks, roads and fleet, and recreation.
“Since the reorganization, we’ve collectively focused on the expressed goals,” said the Director of Community Operations, Kathy Russell.
“We have been focusing our efforts on a shared leadership mindset as the means to reducing silos, improving efficiencies and intergrading the use of our most valuable resource, which is our people,” she said.
“Adding, “The critical first step is getting the right people on the bus. I’m confident that our managers are exactly what we need. Mutual support and collaboration have been modelled on a daily basis.”
Throughout 2020, Community Operations has to overcome many challenges.
“2020 has brought Community Operations a number of challenges, this year was not business as usual,” said the Parks Manager, Rick Van Gelder.
Staff levels were reduced as city staffers worked in the Emergency Command Centre (ECC) during the first wave of COVID-19.
“We reduced staff levels in parks by 25 per cent, we were still able to maintain parks, support the ECC, deal with amenity closures, and parking issues,” Van Gelder said.
In 2020, the Community Operations workload increased to implement COVID-19 protocols including cleaning, disinfecting, and installing plexiglass.
The environmental services group had an increase in curbside collections by 60 per cent and further complications due to increased street congestion.
“With the increase of people working from home, we had an increase of inquiries and complaints by about 50 per cent,” Van Gelder said.
“2020 also brought a number of financial challenges for everyone, and we were no exception. Community Operations as a whole reduced operational spending over one million dollars,” he said.
Operational spending was reduced through staff reductions, delaying operation projects, reducing the level of service, and suspending capital projects until 2021.
The integration of Environmental Services into Community Operations in 2020 was done through a strategy involving all departments, that focused on having the proper people, processes, and technology.
The integration included setting priorities, delivering a well-coordinated launch, and keeping a focus on the key priorities.
Throughout 2020 the Community Operations team collaborated cross-departmentally to achieve common goals such as the integration of the stormwater system maintenance with roads maintenance, an Environmental Services Operator supporting roads in the winter, and Fleet supporting the lifecycle review of vehicles and equipment.
In 2020, Community Operations reviewed the 20-year capital purchasing plan and made changes to the fleet and equipment practices to achieve a balanced approach to spending for Fleet services.
As a result of the review, Community Operations moved away from an automatic 10-year lifecycle replacement for all assets to an Asset Condition approach.
The Asset Condition approach takes into account hours, mileage, usage, Parts Availability, aesthetics, and mechanical failure history.
The Asset Condition approach is anticipated to extend replacement periods for fleet that is in excellent condition of accelerating replacements based on poor condition ratings and usage.
Community Operations also began centralizing costs for fleet-related items by combining the budgets for common services, roads, storm, environmental services, and parks.
The transition of bringing the maintenance of environmental services in-house was completed, which eliminated the cost of a contracted mobile mechanic and achieved efficiencies by increasing response time to maintenance problems.
Going forward, Community Operations have identified a variety of priorities for 2021 that follow councils strategic vision for an Amazing Chestermere, such as further integration of the Parks Department and Recreation Department in order to prepare for, and support the future Recreation and Civic Centre, developing a property plan for Community Operations sites, implementing City Works software in all departments in order to align with the roll-out of service levels and priority-based budgeting, continuing to improve the capital project management practices to gain efficiencies, save money, and broaden the skill sets of staff, and develop plans and policies that focus on gaining efficiencies and addressing service levels.
Some of the top priorities identified for 2021 are expected to take more than one year to accomplish and could be impacted due to COVID-19.
“The management team of Community Operations delivered all of the core services in 2020 under challenging circumstances and needing to creatively modify work processes on the fly in order to support the ECC and community feedback,” Russell said.
Adding, “Our team delivered service levels under challenging circumstances while creatively modifying work processes and achieving substantial cost savings.”