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St. Albert city departments busy: city manager

Patrick Draper says prioritization key to alleviating staff workload

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

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Is the administrative staff of the City of St. Albert overworked?

Recently, workload has begun appearing in staff reports to council, detailing why requests from councillors need to be dealt with on a longer time line.

At the April 21 meeting, staff asked that the drainage bylaw proposed by Coun. Sheena Hughes come back in the second quarter of 2015 instead of by the end of September 2014 as originally suggested.

“For Administration to bring forward a bylaw of this type for Council review and approval by September 30, 2014 staff’s current workload will need to be reprioritized and some existing projects either deferred or cancelled,” reads the report.

Similar sentiments appeared in a report from the same meeting where administration favoured asking Amacon to develop new downtown engineering standards for the city.

“Based on the existing workload of Administration, staff does not have the resources to spearhead the creation and implementation of new engineering standards tailored to the downtown area,” says that backgrounder.

“I think actually the amount of activity that staff are engaged (in) at this point is at a record all-time high,” said city manager Patrick Draper in an interview this week.

He said there are a couple factors contributing to that workload.

The first is the interest from developers in pursuing residential, commercial and industrial projects in the city.

“It’s great news that St. Albert is attracting this investment,” he said, but it creates a “bubble effect” for administration.

“It creates a significant demand on our human resources to be able to work in a timely manner with all of these proponents. Now they all happen to be coming at around the same time, they’re not nicely spaced over a five or 10 year period,” he said.

Once those developments are underway, busy departments like economic development or planning and engineering’s heavier loads end up passed on to departments like public works or recreation and culture, who now have to look after more roads or plan more programs to accommodate the growth.

The second reason is a new council, which comes with a new set of priorities.

“We worked with them and they created a new strategic plan,” Draper said. “From an administrative standpoint, we have to take that direction now and add it into our work plans.”

Draper said one of the things he thinks can be done better is to look at the list of priorities and how they should be sequenced.

“We don’t have to do everything in the next six months,” he said.

“It’s a discipline of trying to say what are the key priorities in the short, medium and long term,” he said. “When you do that, it affects the workload and we become more streamlined.”

Not trying to check the workflow could result in burnt out staff, he said. While he doesn’t have a quantitative assessment of people’s workloads, Draper “can see there are certain areas where they have a lot going on right now.

“Those are pressure points that I think we can alleviate by really, you know, getting some council direction on priorities and time frames,” he said.

Adding new staff positions requires making a business case as part of the annual budget process.

“One of the requests I’m going to have of staff, given where we are, is priority should be given to business cases that address workload pressure points,” Draper said.

New collaboration projects with Sturgeon County or the Capital Region Board can also add to staff workload, he said.

Draper said the city’s full-time equivalent counts are lower than Edmonton on a per capita basis, and that St. Albert is in the middle of the municipal pack when it comes to costs.

“We’re not by any stretch of the imagination over-staffed,” he said.


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