Greater Sudbury working on plans to restore municipal services
Situation is 'very fluid,' making planning difficult, says city manager
With Ontario now in its first stage of reopening, Greater Sudbury city staff says there will be announcements soon about the restoration of certain municipal services — such as library curbside pickup, one of the services now permitted under the province's guidelines.
The city is also looking ahead, and making plans for what service restoration could look like moving forward. However, making those plans isn't simple, says city manager Ian Wood.
"The situation with regard to our response, and as we begin to talk about service restoration, is very fluid. It changes day to day," said Wood, Sudbury's executive director of strategic initiatives, communications and citizen services.
Wood presented a report to city council during its bimonthly meeting Tuesday evening, updating councilors both on plans for restoring services, and the financial impacts of COVID-19.
For the last two months, Wood says the city's focus has been on maintaining essential services, such as first responders and water and wastewater treatment, while enhancing certain services, such as supports for the homeless population.
While the province has unveiled its framework for reopening, Wood said it is difficult at this point to predict what service restoration will look like beyond stage stage one.
"It makes it very difficult to make hard and fast decisions on what will be available and when, when we don't know the timing, and we don't necessarily know the parameters," Wood said.
The report outlines a number of factors the city is considering when it comes to creating its plans. Those include public health directives, health and safety, finances, prioritizing services for vulnerable populations, and staff availability, among others.
Wood said a number of city staff have been diverted to assist with Pioneer Manor, the city-run long-tem care home.
"So clearly if we're going to restore other services, those staff need to be able to return to their normal jobs, and we need to stage this is a way that makes sure that all of these needs can be accommodated."
According to the report, Greater Sudbury is projecting a financial impact of $6.8 million by the end of June. The majority of that — $5.7 million — is due to lost revenue, including things like transit fares and rental fees. The other $1.1 million is additional spending directly related to COVID-19.
When it comes to fee-generated revenue, Wood said it's hard to predict how well those will "rebound" as services are restored.
"Even if we went back to full transit service, certainly I think it's questionable as to whether or not the the number of riders would return."
Will roads take a back seat?
Following a report on the city's capital projects, Coun. René Lapierre asked if any projects could be deferred, to help balance the budget. He noted, for example, the city has budgeted $55 million for road work this year, and to date contracts have closed for just over $25 million of that.
David Shelsted, the city's engineering service director, said that could be an option.
"The options would be either to delay some of the contracts, which is a definite possibility, and then the other possibility would be to phase those contacts over multiple years, so there's only a portion of spending within 2020."
Another financial report will be presented at a finance committee meeting on June 2. CAO Ed Archer said staff would look into options around deferring projects to include in that report.