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The answer might be in the details

 

Steve Campbell

Everybody’s looking around to see what’s gone wrong with Prince Edward County. We can’t seem to sustain the budget the County demands for giving us the services we receive.
So first we go lifting up the seat cushions on our chairs and sofas, scouting for some loose change that might have fallen out of someone’s pocket. This was the CEO’s first line of approach, when he turned the spotlight on libraries, museums and town halls.
Clearly the money saved here would not buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s, so CEO Merlin looked at the other end of the scale: Management, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are coughed up each year, to do the job the township councils did 15 years ago, virtually for free.
As a result, a shuffle has been made in the departments, and possibly for the better. Time will tell, because corporations like the County always have to leave some kind of opening for the high-priced people they need to dispose of. So they may be hired back and, hopefully, they won’t get 100 Gs for doing the job the totally-unpaid guy does on Picton Main Street to keep the streets clean.
So basically, we started hunting for money in the really small things, and then started looking at the really big things. This is good, but I think it ignores the basic problem.
Our amalgamated system is huge, bulky, and packed with people who make your request look as enormous as possible, in order to make their jobs look essential. Which – from the County resident’s point of view – is why simple things take a large amount of effort to accomplish, and sometimes cost a pantload of money.
If you really want to know what’s wrong in the County … it’s in the details.    I recently read an ad in The Times from the County, seeking a ‘Casual Part-Time Landfill Attendant’. For you Old-School people, this used to be called the ‘Dump Guy’.
This ad was brought to my attention by my friend Gary Morden, a long-time Century 21 agent, who is also involved in several other business ventures.
“I read the ad,” he said, “and I thought that might be a fun thing to do. Then I read the requirements, and went ‘Wow! I don’t think I qualify’!”
The ideal candidate, according to the ad, would need: a minimum Grade 12 diploma, post-secondary education preferred; ability to work independently as well as part of a team; proven communication and customer service skills; experience in cash management; knowledge and training under the Occupational Health & Safety Act; excellent physical condition; no criminal background.
Whew! I had to agree with Gary. I don’t think I want to apply either, and suffer the embarrassment of rejection.
This would not look good on my resumé: “Ran a successful business for 36 years, but was recently rejected as the ‘Dump Guy’ unless I buffed up a bit with some weight training.”
By the way, I’m not disrespecting the guys and gals who run the dumps – they’re great! I’ve had some fine conversations with them, and many of their patrons, and I get a lot of column ideas as a result.
Because, like the post office and the bank, the ‘landfill attendants’ get the hottest gossip from the community.
I have a number of problems with our ‘New Way’ of doing things.
First, how much did taxpayers pay to have someone draw up the detailed description that appeared in the ad? That’s what we pay the Big Money for.
Second, unless I’m mistaken, all of the dump hours have been cut down to one day a week or less. Sure, they’re offering $16.76 an hour, which (in writer’s terms) is one kickin’ wage, but the ‘one-day’ thing is probably not going to attract the people who have hustled to get their Master’s degree, so they can jump ahead of the slackards who only have a General BA.
The problem is not with the Dump Guys. They’re cool.
The problem is: we have set up a system that requires enormous amounts of time and money to advertise, interview, gather resumés, peruse, discuss and eventually select a Dump Guy.
For one day a week! Maybe more, at a different location, if you have read some Chaucer, but not George Orwell, who predicted out-of-control bureaucracies long before 1984.
This is what’s gone wrong in the County. Decisions like this were once made at a kitchen table, by township councillors.
“We need a guy to man the dump.”
“How about Fred? He’s looking for work and he needs the money.”
“Okay, let’s call Fred.”
Done and done.
Not to go too far over the edge, but we have convinced ourselves that everything has to be complicated. And all of our governments have taught us that.
We believe it, and that’s what sustains fat bureaucracies and fat corporations. The people with the Big Money. Without them we’d be lost! Or would we?
I know the simple ways are gone. But pouring money into a broken system is not going to help us.
The County has also announced it is seeking public opinion in a survey (www.surveymonkey.com/s/PEC2012) on Customer Service. We’ve all had dealings with ‘County’ and, to me, the higher up you go, the less service you get.
So I’ll tell you my response up front.
Customer Service?: Excellent.
Are County employees helpful, courteous and professional?: Yes. Except for two guys who are both gone now. Both at higher levels.
How can we improve customer service?: Keep the people who actually do the work. They know how to do it, and they don’t need a load of supervisors and management telling them how to do it.
They don’t need a lot of rules and restrictions, and things they ‘need to check’. Cut them loose. They know their job, and they know how to get it done quickly, if you don’t tie their hands.
This may be a Fool’s Dream, but County needs to lose its obsession with ‘liability’, so we can set about doing the things ordinary County residents do all the time.
All Dalton McGuinty needs to say is: “Health and Safety” and a bill gets passed. All you need to say in the County is “liability” and a travelling zoo gets turned away. Thanks to the province, a Bake Sale gets shut down.
This is what’s wrong with the County. We live, and we do what we do. We don’t want – or need – a string of managers shouting out the rules.
It seems the only way we can continue to do the things we do, is to keep it under wraps. Go underground.
“SSSh! – we’re having a smorgasbord at the church with food cooked off-premises in the best kitchens in the County – don’t tell anybody!”

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Ann Hunter says:

    I wanted to comment on an earlier Blog of yours (The County Gets More Interesting Every Day)but was not able to, so sorry for changing the subject here. There is an article in todays Belleville Intelligencer regarding a local pedophile pleading guilty. I am wondering why we haven’t heard much about this case as he was also a foster parent of the Prince Edward County CAS. A Mr. Slatter had his name in the papers on a regular basis and he ended up having the charges withdrawn. This man is guilty and there is barely a blip about it. And again what the heck is happening at our local CAS, another foster parent guilty! And no outrage again!!!

  2. Madeline says:

    Wow Steve you hit it right on the head with this story… Also did you know that when the Mayor said last week (I believe it was) in the Gazette that two county trucks were seen in Wellington both headed up to cut the grass, well the irony is that the county employees don’t do any lawn work and hasn’t for sometime. Makes you wonder why the Mayor didn’t know this????? Does he even know what has and has not been tendered out. Time to come out of your office Mr.Mayor

  3. Sharon says:

    I dunno Steve, shouldn’t you be saying “Dump Person”… ?

  4. David Norman says:

    Damn you Steve! Since I read this article I’ve had the song “Sign, Sign, everywhere a sign” stuck in my head.

  5. virginia says:

    thanks–but I was actually just responding to the last part of the blog. I have no problem with the point about the dump.

  6. Marnie says:

    Yes, laws are laws and we have to follow rules but surely our input should be considered when making these laws and rules. It is poor planning to have just one dump day every week. Some people work on Saturdays and cannot get to the dump then. The least council could have done is to alternate these days – two Saturdays a month and two Wednesdays. This would give everyone an opportunity to get to the dump. The qualifications for dump attendant border on the ludicrous. Several men who successfully did this job for years could no longer qualify for it.

    I don’t think Steve is suggesting secession, just common sense which is sadly lacking in so many of council’s decisions today.

  7. virginia says:

    Times change. Laws are laws. Municipalities have to follow rules.
    Or are you people planning to secede from the province and the country?

  8. gil says:

    I must agree with Fran and Doris.>>>
    Steve is the Man!!!
    Let’s getter done!!!

  9. Richard Hall says:

    Great article Steve. The reduction from two days to just Saturdays at the landfill sites and the increased fees say one thing to me– dis-respect. To save minimal dollars council has taken from the grass roots. One is forced to store debris at home waiting for Saturday, One is forced to work Saturdays if part of their job includes taking items to the “dump” for customers. The increase in fees ,as with all sur-charges our administration has perfected, only hurt the lower income individuals. This council has lost touch and respect for the people that elected them. As a side note I have taken articles with me to my cottage in another municipality where garbage is included in my taxes. Pretty sad statement about our services in PEC.

    Richard Hall

  10. Mark says:

    Another good article Steve. The County cut a couple of big jobs to get people like you and me off their back and give the appearance they were serious. On the radio this morning the County was appologizing for sending out Blue box schedules to every residential home that were in error. I looked at these today and they are 2 double sided sheets all in glorious living colour! Can you imagine the expense and waste of taxpayer dollars. It just goes on and on. Duplication of services in Shire Hall and the Edward never being addressed. What the County really needs is an inquiry from the Ministry of Municipal Services.

  11. Fran Renoy says:

    Once again Steve your article was “right on the money”.Like you I think that the Dump Guys’ are great. Unfortunately their hours have been cut in half and they now work one day a week instead of two. Your comparison of Municipal hiring practices today and pre amalgamation are hilarious.

  12. Doris Lane says:

    As Usual an excellent article by Steve.. He should be running the County–he knows what is wrong and how to fix it He seems to be the only one who does

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