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By Joe van Koeverden, Dryden City Manager
We have just completed a difficult budget process and now will need to focus on the work at hand to ensure a successful implementation of the operating guidelines required to meet our financial goals.
We have had turnover at the council and management levels and are at a tipping point in changes to our economy and the traditional tax and revenue base of the city.
As your new City Manager, I came at a time when issues were bubbling to the surface, workloads were high, relationships were strained and a new reality was coming to light. Currently my time and resources are stretched away from regular business of the city to a transition within DMTS, change in leadership at the DDC and the need to look forward to the future while getting further acquainted with you and your community.
This is a time more than ever that we need to work together, listen to the new ideas, stand firm on our values but be willing to be flexible for the good of the whole.
In the big picture, we need to redo the strategic plan for the city in a manner that reflects our current reality and the interests of the community at large. As your City Manager, I will present the planning process to management and council in February to ensure that our internal process can start in March with public input in April and May. More work will be done over the summer to ensure a full plan and implementation strategy will be completed by September before the start of the next budgeting process.
We also have a number of large projects underway that will put us in a better position once they are completed but are currently a strain on our people and resources.
We have a number of projects in Finance that will put some light on our overall financial picture. With the completion and release of the 2009 and 2010 audited financial statements we will be able to submit our FIRs (Financial Information Reports) to MMAH and catch up on our OMPF funding.
We will make a commitment to complete the 2011 statements in a timely manner to ensure that the council and the public have current information on our financial situation. The Finance department is also installing a new software program that will support the water billing process and allow us to improve a number of other financial reporting systems.
In addition, our Treasurer will be leading the negotiations for the reassessment in the Large Industrial and will be submitting the implications of the tax shift in the next few months.
Public Works will also be an integral part in the implementation of the new water billing system. We will monitor the billing to ensure that there is a smooth transition to the new system with the opportunity for the public to raise concerns and have them addressed.
The construction of the new Sewage Treatment Plant is coming into the final stages with some concerns with the timing and final costs but with close monitoring should be completed close to the desired deadline and budget. With other projects as road improvements and arena renovations waiting on news for possible funding programs, we expect another busy year for this department.
Our telephone service (DMTS) is also at a critical point as we continue to map our next steps for the Retain and Grow Strategy. We are a very small player in a very large industry and looking to create partnerships that will allow us to be sustainable.
We are in negotiation with a number of companies for better equipment, roaming agreements and additional spectrum to improve our service in a manner that is economically feasible.
With the help of a telecommunications consultant, our management team is now equipped with the options to move this forward. Our message to the public is “don’t leave us now” as we are close to a resolution of our main service and operating concerns.
In Community Services we will continue to monitor our program revenues and costs and be supportive of the many volunteer organizations that feed into and support our diverse service offering.
With the completion of the ball diamonds last year, we will look at options for higher utilization of this facility and ways of completing the project over time.
Aaron Park will continue to improve its level of service and is attracting more seasonal campers that will ensure a better financial performance in the following year.
Our many volunteer organizations may require more staff support as they struggle with a combination of increased workload and volunteer burnout and retirements.
The Dryden Development Corporation will be going through a leadership change while the level of activity is high and exciting.
Although our waterfront development project will be on hold for another year, we have done a study on the downtown and are having a number of projects coming forward for the newly developed industrial parks.
There will also be a number of sector specific studies done to look for opportunities in the value added lumber, mining and other service industries.
We will continue to position Dryden as a regional service hub and work closely with new ventures as Treasury Metals and the First Nations to ensure we maximize the economic impact as mining companies move through the exploration, construction and operational phases of development.
For many of the other departments it will be business as usual except for the need to review their business models to ensure they are offering the best possible service in a cost effective manner.
Departments will be looking for operational changes that can impact expenses with minimal change in service. We will introduce a system of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all areas to monitor the level of service and provide more direction in the next planning and budgeting cycle.
This will be a year of our management staff to work on their business management skills in preparation for even a higher level of scrutiny on services and expenditures in the future. All departments will be challenged to look for savings for this and further years.
As we move forward, we will develop a Strategic Plan that will focus on your passion (quality of life), the engine of economic diversity and be the best we can at managing the multitude of systems required to provide the residents of Dryden with transparent, cost effective governance and service. I can only ask for your involvement, cooperation and support knowing full well that our success is dependent on it.
In a leadership role, some would like to be measured by how far out in front they are of the crowd. Others are measured by how many are willing to follow. I prefer the latter and will gauge my success accordingly. Hopefully you will decide to work together in a collaborative approach.