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Councillors decry slow response times, lower service levels

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: City of Kawartha Lakes councillors expressed their frustrations with the level of service the city has been providing recently and response times from city staff, at a meeting on Tuesday, September 15th. The discussion began, following a pandemic update from CAO Ron Taylor. Ward 5 Councillor Pat Dunn questioned why people have been getting an automated response message, when trying to get through to city staff who are currently working from home. “We have now put in place protocols for email inquiries and phone inquiries that it will be a 48 hour acknowledgement or response. You won’t get a live person unless they are sitting at the desk at that moment and are picking up,” CAO Taylor explained. “Staff have been advised we should be monitoring [inquiries] on a daily basis, and that we want to still be maintaining our standard for two days, at least, response or acknowledgment.” CAO Taylor also stated the current phone system cannot forward calls to personal phone lines. But staff can call in to their voicemail system and get their messages that way. But Councillor Dunn said he’s had a number of calls from residents who have told him they’re not getting any answers on their inquiries. He stated, residents feel they are “getting a minimized service.” Councillor Dunn brought up bylaw service specifically, as an example. “I received a call two weeks ago, where they said to the lady, that phoned them, [they] are still working on their June calls.” CAO Taylor explained the city’s earlier pandemic response measures slowed responses from the bylaw department. “Leading up to now, their situation, was responding as best to priority calls only, and to enforcing the provincial orders that were in place. They did that, I think, quite well as a priority. Obviously that then meant many cases were delayed, and delayed significantly,” the CAO said, adding, the city also didn’t fill certain bylaw positions when they were in the response phase of this pandemic. Ward 3 Councillor Doug Elmslie had similar concerns. “It certainly has been a frustrating time, not getting responses when you email or phone [staff],” he stated. “It’s not every staff member by any stretch of the imagination, and I’d say if the shoe fits wear it.” He noted there are issues with the city’s landfill processes. “I still hear from contractors and from private citizens, who are telling me they go to the dump and they can wait, anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half, before they get in, and they have things they don’t pay for, yet they are still required to line up, go across the scale, and line up again and go across the scale before they come out, even though there’s no charge for them.” Ward 6 Councillor Ron Ashmore echoed the frustration, of not being able to get constituents answers. “I understand the backlog, but there’s got to be a way to get out of this jam here. It’s not that complicated to get it worked out,” Councillor Ashmore opined. CAO Ron Taylor said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the city to make changes to how they conduct business, specifically focusing on “cost containment.”

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