Town staff adapting after organizational restructuring

 

By Ron Giofu

With the town and three senior staff members parting ways last Tuesday, it means a busy time in the short term but hopefully a more efficient organization long-term, said the town’s chief administration officer.

Last Tuesday’s restructuring saw the town part ways with director of engineering and infrastructure Lou Zarlenga, manager of human resources Carol Bendo and director of corporate services Val Sequeira but CAO Mike Phipps said there is still work to do in terms of getting other people adapted to their new roles and getting job descriptions updated and approved.

Phipps said when he began his duties as CAO in June, his work plan was to look at the town’s organizational structure over a three-month period and determine whether changes were necessary. That three month period expired and he believed changes were in order.

Getting a standalone financial department was key, he said, as he didn’t want it combined under a corporate services umbrella. He said he wanted to get staff in the financial department back doing financial work exclusively.

“I wanted a stronger focus on finances in this organization,” said Phipps.

In the public works and engineering department, Phipps said his goal is to get more of a focus on doing engineering work in-house and cut down on exterior engineering work. The same holds true in the corporate and legal services department, he added, as the plan is to hire a law clerk to help reduce the amount of legal fees incurred by the municipality.

“Overall, looking at the entire organization, we might have added one or two contract positions,” said Phipps.

Phipps added he has told departments they have to reduce expenses, such as engineering and legal fees, accordingly to pay for any new staff.

“Generally speaking, we are going to be the same number (of staff) but focused more on finances, economic development and customer service,” said Phipps.

Three departments will also be going back through the CAO’s office, he noted, including human resources. That will continue until Phipps is comfortable letting that area work under another department. He noted Tony DeThomasis is also the new manager of economic development and strategic assets.

Customer service is also big, said Phipps, and his executive assistant Nicole Rubli will help cross-train town hall and guest services staff at the United Communities Credit Union Complex, something she did in her previous employment. Phipps said the kiosk and guest services staff “won’t have to know every job” but they will be given greater knowledge so that they can help residents more efficiently.

“The goal is to provide one-stop shopping to the citizens,” said Phipps.

By having guest services staff at the United Communities Credit Union Complex further trained, it will expand opportunities to provide greater customer service to residents as the complex is open longer than town hall.

“That was an issue that was important to me and an issue that council really liked,” said Phipps.

Zarlenga had 14 years of service with the town while Bendo had eight years of service. Sequeira had seven months. Severance packages will be varied based on years of service, Phipps said.

“At this time, we are negotiating with each of them,” he told the River Town Times last Friday afternoon.

The reorganization of staff will be better for the citizens of Amherstburg, he believed.

“I think we are going to have a far ore efficient organization,” said Phipps. “It’s going to take some time but in the long run, citizens are going to be far better served. I think we’re going to be in a much better position to serve the public.”

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