Wellington North supports concept of shared drainage superintendent

WELLINGTON NORTH – Council here has directed staff to work toward an agreement to share a drainage superintendent with the Town of Minto.

During the June 22 meeting, council agreed to the plan to hire a full-time shared municipal drainage superintendent and to bring the agreement to council for review at a future meeting.

Staff from the two municipalities, as well as the Township of Mapleton, met on Feb. 7 to discuss future plans for the provision of drainage superintendent services for each municipality.

Wellington North and Minto both indicated interested in pursuing a different service provision for local drainage superintendent services, which are currently provided through contracted engineering firms in both municipalities, while Mapleton is not currently interested, notes a staff report from operations director Matt Aston and clerk Karren Wallace.

“I was a little bit surprised to see that we would be looking to hire a full-time municipal drain superintendent and, again, shared with the municipality of Minto,” said councillor Sherry Burke.

The township recently agreed to share a director of fire services with Minto.

A 2019 report from consulting firm KPMG, commissioned by Wellington County municipalities, recommended municipalities consider sharing services as a means to control costs and increase efficiency.

The report includes a “Top 20 in 2020” list of recommendations.

“I’ve got a lot of concerns around this 20 in ‘20, but we’ll discuss that at another time,” said Burke.

“I guess my question is do we have enough work for a full-time person, or do we feel that we have enough full-time work to share this person?”

“We have in our municipality over 100 drains,” Wallace replied, though she noted “they’re not all active. We have a lot of ward drains that aren’t anything to do with the municipality.

“At any given times those drains may need work and that’s just the ones that are already constructed.”

Added Wallace, “I think we do at least three new drains a year and between the work that we have with our drains we just feel there would be enough work for a full-time drainage superintendent.”

She explained that currently the township’s approach to drainage is “very reactive.

“We get a call when there’s a problem and then we’ve got to get contactors out and things like that.”

Wallace concluded, “Something that we could be more proactive at is, through the good weather, have your drainage superintendent actually … do preventative scouting work.”

Aston noted the township on its own would have “at most” enough work for a 0.5 full-time equivalent position.

He also noted some funding for the position is available through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

“We just really think we could be more proactive,” said Aston.

“We look at municipal drains as municipal infrastructure and it’s really important if you’re farming to have your drain in good condition and draining your land,” added Wallace.

Mayor Andy Lennox said, “As our urban areas grow as well, we always talk about stormwater management with development being the big issue.

“That stormwater outlets to somewhere. Do we see that person as being an asset in terms of helping to manage some of the challenges that come with our growing urban population as well?”

Aston noted the intent is that “this person would be sort of a drainage surface water expert and, although municipal drains would be their primary focus, the rigour around stormwater management ponds and stormwater sewers in general is increasing and that that would be something that would be in that person’s wheelhouse.”

“I think there would be a big opportunity for storm water management pond maintenance and anything related to stormwater sewers, up to and including possibly municipal drains in urban settings,” he added.

Lennox noted Minto has “a number of concerns around flooding, particularly in Harriston, and I think this probably is an important aspect of the job for them, maybe more so than us.”

The mayor asked if the intent was “to have a work plan for what each person will do in each municipality?”

“I think the intent was really to get council’s general endorsement for the concept and then certainly the details might need to be worked out,” said Aston.

Councillor Steve McCabe expressed support for the idea.

“I think this will have a great impact on our farmers going forward,” he stated.

A resolution directing staff to proceed with developing an agreement was approved unopposed.

Minto council approved a similar resolution at its June 16 meeting.