South Dundas council says no to economic development

South Dundas council will not replace the economic development officer position.

After stalling for over a month, South Dundas council finally put the future of the economic development officer position to a vote at the June 2, regular meeting.

South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke has repeatedly expressed his support for South Dundas replacing its economic development officer who resigned April 23.

“If council feels we shouldn’t fill the EDO position, say so,” said Locke. “If any of you have ideas, I want to hear them.” 

“I’m not in favour of hiring an EDO right now,” said South Dundas councillor Bill Ewing. “We need to do a review of all positions and go from there,” he said.

“We need an economic development officer,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan. “Whatever handle you want to give it, we need one. We were ahead of the curve when it came to economic development, and now others are going that way. We have to have one.”

South Dundas councillor Marc St. Pierre disagreed.

He argued that tourism takes care of itself and the BIA, Chamber of Commerce and other business groups look after themselves, and that the Morrisburg waterfront committee is self-sufficient.

“For economic development, we need to be more geared to business and residential growth and I just don’t see that,” he said. 

South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde suggested that the work being done by this full time person should be combined into other departments such as communications handling the promotion and marketing aspect of the job. She argued that business development is done through the planning department and that the website is sufficient as an investor profile resource, as long as it’s kept up to date. She also said that in some other municipalities, economic development is handled by the CAO.

“I am not for re-hiring until we’ve completed an organizational review,” said Delegarde, suggesting that until that review is done, that the workload be distributed amongst existing staff. 

There is no money in the 2015 budget for an organizational review.

“Do you think we have the capacity to re-distribute the workload, if we take tourism out of the equation,” councillor Mellan asked the CAO.

“No,” answered chief administrative officer Steve McDonald. 

“During a vacancy or transition, other staff pick up the priority issues, but that is not meant to be permanent,” he said. “I hope council has a plan.”

Council plans to hold a committee of the whole meeting to discuss those plans. A meeting date has not yet been made public.

Following the council meeting, South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke said that decisions like this have municipal staff very frustrated. 

In South Dundas the economic development officer’s portfolio included tourism, strategic planning, business development, liaison work with various committees, promotions and marketing and administratively supervision of the communications coordinator and the initial redevelopment of the website. 

Tourism stakeholder discussion forums, the first South Dundas Business Summit, the Upper Canada Region marketing plan and the uniform branding and sign program that has new roadside signs, hamlet signs and facility signs across South Dundas are some of this department’s recent accomplishments. 

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