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NVCA board shakes up operation at end of its term, CAO ousted in process

Posted September 3, 2014

The Service Delivery and Operational Review of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) cost CAO Wayne Wilson his job following an Aug 22nd board meeting, and lays out 15 recommendations including "organization realignment" to "maximize the use of part-time" and "seasonal employees" and cuts the board size in half to 16, readjusting weight votes by assessment contribution.

Click to Read the full summary here

The NVCA is made up of 18 municipalities - including New Tecumseth (two board seats), Adjala-Tosorontio (one seat), and Essa (two seats) - located within the Nottawasaga watershed which covers approximately 3,700 sq. km. Its mandate includes "regulatory capacity relating to development, interference with wetlands and alterations to shorelines and watercourses. The Authority also acts as a commenting agency to our member municipalities with respect to environmental impact assessments and stormwater management approvals." In 2014, the 18 municipalities were levied about $2 million for NVCA operations - New Tecumseth's contribution was about $245k; Essa, $137k; and Adjala-Tos, about $90k.

The "efficiency" review prepared by Gazda, Houlne & Associates, has come under criticism by environmental watch organizations like Aware Simcoe for its confidential elements, and its presentations and discussions held by the NVCA board in camera.

The report's summary, including answers to public questions, notes its presentation at two meetings in May in July were private "not ... for purposes of secrecy or to avoid transparency, but rather to protect the confidentiality of the participants providing input to the Project as promised and assured."

Mr. Wilson's tenure after 22 years with the NVCA reportedly ended Mon., Aug. 25. No reason for his departure was announced. A hint of problems in the administration is found in the referenced results of a survey of NVCA staff and board members rating service delivery by department. Corporate Services/Administration (Office of CAO) scored lowest with 67 per cent suggesting "ok as is" and 33 per cent "requires improvement."

"We can not discuss the reasons for Wayne's departure from the NVCA," wrote Nina Bifolchi, Chair, NVCA Board of Directors, in an email to Free Press Online. "The Board however recognizes his many years at the NVCA and appreciates all the work he did during that time."

Ms Bifolchi, a Wasaga Beach councillor who's running for deputy mayor in that municipality, defended the NVCA board's handling of the operation review coming at the end of its term.

"In 2013 the Board of Directors approved moving forward with an efficiency audit," she explained in her email reply to questions about its timing just prior to the municipal elections. "Further reports will come forward to the Board of Directors dealing with each of the recommendations which will provide opportunity for further discussion between board members and their councils prior to them voting. The current board has been in place for four years and is familiar with the operations of the NVCA. It makes sense to move forward."

New Tecumseth is represented at the NVCA by Ward 1 councillor Bob Marrs, and Ward 5 councillor Donna Jebb. Ms. Jebb's appointment to the board last year was the first time since amalgmation the Town had not included a non-councillor as its reps.

Mr. Marrs and Ms. Jebb have since their time together on the board, split their votes on larger matters including Ms. Jebb's support of allowing residential development encroachment in a designated flood zone, in New Tecumseth, which Mr. Marrs opposed. And now, both are on opposite sides of the efficiency audit process - Ms. Jebb voted with the majority, along with Doug Lougheed of Innisfil, the only two of eight south Simcoe votes to do so. At this writing, Ms. Jebb is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Marrs told Free Press Online via email that they were not permitted to discuss the contents of the NVCA's operational review at the local level because it was being dealt with as a confidential item.

"All of the consultants reports and discussions were carried out  in camera therefore there was no opportunity to discuss with council or staff, town or NVCA," said Mr. Marrs. "The use of in camera for a number of lengthy meetings was opposed by some NVCA board members but the majority voted to continue the process."

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