Revelstoke development services staffing crisis worsens with two staff on leave

The building services department is currently down five staff members due to vacancies and medical leave.

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File photo: A new home under construction in Revelstoke's Southside neighbourhood.

Two senior staff members in the City of Revelstoke’s Development Services department are away on medical leave, compounding a staff shortage problem in the department that oversees building and construction services in the city.

In late April, the Mountaineer reported that Building Services Manager Dan Gellein, who was hired in October 2018 to oversee building inspection services, had left the city to take another position in the Okanagan. The city already had another vacant building inspector position. In addition, we reported that a junior planning staff member had left.

Now, two other members of the department have left on medical leave, including the department head, Director of Development Services, Marianne Wade, who started with the city in January. The other staff member on leave is an assistant planner.

In total, that means three positions are vacant and two others are vacant due to medical leave, right as the busy building season ramps up.

In a statement at a Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting on May 8, mayor Gary Sulz said dealing with the situation was a priority for the city.

“We all recognize that everybody is really concerned about how they go forward with their projects. We don’t want to stop anything,” Sulz said. “We’re trying to work through all of these issues as quickly as possible.”

Referencing the vacuum created by the lack of information over the new medical leaves — which could just be due to someone being off sick — the mayor said he was legally constrained about what he could say on personnel issues. “This means rumours will continue, and the unknown will continue to be bolstered by those who do not feel I am being transparent; however, employee privacy is paramount,” he said.

In a media release sent out on May 7, the city said that a registered building official would be in for three days to help with building inspections, and that a consultant from McElhanney Consulting had been brought in this week to help with planning applications. The city is also working with a recruiting company to help bring on new staff.

“We are in the process of reviewing applications received to date,” the statement read. “This can take a few weeks and an exact start date is unknown at this time.”

“We are doing everything in our power to fill these positions as soon as we can,” the statement said.

On May 6, council held a special closed-door meeting. Although the content of the meeting is not publicly available, the city does report on the reason why the meeting was held in camera. It was listed as “labour relations or other employee relations.”

Council meets for their regular meeting on May 14, but they have also scheduled a special council meeting for the same day. The agenda for that meeting has not been published.

Analysis

It’s fair to say that nobody in the community wanted the city to be in this position, yet here we are.

The city’s Development Services Department has struggled for the past three years to keep pace with the increased volume and scale of building activity in Revelstoke. In response, new positions were created, including a new building inspector position, and a reorganization brought in Marianne Wade as the head of the department earlier this year.

However, with the baggage of controversies over construction delays over the past two building seasons, it’s natural that three vacancies and two staff on medical leave would draw public attention.

Although the two new medical leaves could be due to illness, the timing of two special closed-door council meetings in two weeks points to more going on behind the scenes. It’s unclear what the resolution to the situation will be. Look for updates at revelstokemountaineer.com next week.

For a new council now six months into its term, the developments are particularly troublesome due to the nature of election commitments made by many of the councillors. Firstly, they wanted to get the to bottom of issues in development services. In addition, they wanted to explore long-term planning processes such as the official community plan, the zoning bylaw, the vacation rentals issue and the development cost charges bylaw. All of these processes are dependent on the city’s planning services, and with the department on skeleton crew, significant progress on these matters seems unlikely until the staffing issues are resolved.

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