Oh, how those “unintended consequences” can come back to bite you big time.
While members of council were woefully negligent in their handling of the procurement process to designate three operators for the
EarlyON system in St. Thomas-Elgin, it is doubtful the report from Teresa Sulowski, supervisor of children’s services will be revisited.
However it would appear, via a conversation this week with city manager Wendell Graves, a re-think on portions of the process may be in the offing, if not already underway.
The RFP has not been finalized but should be available in the coming week which should give a clearer indication of what the new EarlyON delivery model will look like.
We presented Graves with the questions council members should have raised last month.
Will Community Living Elgin (CLE) be able to bid on more than one of the three geographic zones?
How is CLE to account for any termination payments in their budget and will this impact the delivery of its programs?
With no RFP at this point and the CLE contract expiring at the end of this year, is a two-month window a sufficient time frame to put the new delivery model in place?
Will there be a seamless transition on January 1 of next year?
Let’s pick up the conversation with the city manager and clarify what CLE will be able to bid on when the RFP is in place.
“I don’t think that is totally locked down yet,” advised Graves. “I don’t think that is cemented for sure.”
So, limiting CLE to just one of the three zones across Elgin county is not a given, which seems like a bit of a walk back from the intent in Sulowski’s report.
“It is my understanding over the course of a year or so there had been some dialogue with many users in that childcare space about the whole program area.”
Graves continued, “I don’t want to sound simplistic about it, we have lots of various contracts, whether it be transit or other things and staff evaluate whether we want to replicate or is there opportunity to change some things?
“Should we be looking at change? And, that’s the same thing here. We’ve got a contract that came due and the (EarlyON) program had been evaluated over some time.”
Was CLE ever part of that evaluation process? Since they have operated the program since July of 2018, was their input sought on a possible new delivery model?
“It is my understanding over the course of a year or so there had been some dialogue with many users in that childcare space about the whole program area,” advised Graves.
That appears contrary to what CLE board chairman Darren Connolly indicated to us last week.
He noted, “They (CLE employees) fail to see the benefits of going from one long-term provider to three, and given the lack of consultation with us, we were unable to provide any explanation.”
Connolly continued, “We would have expected, at a minimum, to have been given notice of this pending change given our many years of providing this service to the Elgin community. Or better yet, to have been engaged in a dialogue about changes staff were considering.”
Continuing with Graves, we asked how long the first contract would be with the new agencies in place to operate the EarlyON program beginning next year.
“we are all aware of what I will call an unintended consequence in terms of not maybe, I’ll put it this way, fully appreciating what happens at EarlyON and how they (CLE) manage their internal union contracts.”
“Contracts aren’t open-ended and I haven’t seen the final version in terms of whether it’s for two years or five years or whatever. I don’t know.”
These would seem to be important details with the existing contract expiring in a little over two months.
Graves advised the process for selecting the new providers will follow that of any item or service tendered by the city.
He indicated with the RFP, there will be a matrix of important items “and they will be evaluated and from there a recommendation will be made in terms of which firm to go with.
“In this case childcare providers.”
Are there concerns about the tight turnaround time available to install the new delivery model?
And here is where it gets interesting.
Graves admits to “we are all aware of what I will call an unintended consequence in terms of not maybe, I’ll put it this way, fully appreciating what happens at EarlyON and how they (CLE) manage their internal union contracts.”
A rather major – and what could prove to be expensive – unintended consequence on the city’s part. Generally when you terminate an employee there are financial implications, so how this becomes an unintended consequence is somewhat of a mystery.
“We’re working to see if we can maybe work with EarlyON to alleviate some of that pressure point, in terms of things they have to work with the unions when the contracts actually run out.”
Just a thought, but shouldn’t this have been worked out well in advance of dropping Sulowkski’s report on council?
“If it is in fact a new operator. The current folks have an opportunity to, and we hope they would, participate in the RFP process.”
Has communication in the corridors of city hall reached a new low?
As to how CLE is to deal with termination payments, Graves simply said “I can’t speak to that.”
Could the city offer financial assistance to CLE for this rather significant “unintended consequence” thrust upon the agency?
“I wouldn’t think so but, honestly, I’m not close to that.”
Cutting to the chase, is all of this going to be in place for January 1?
“We’re looking at that,” advised Graves. “To make sure the whole process is as seamless as possible and that will be articulated in the actual RFP that comes out.”
He has promised to make that RFP available to us when it is available as the document will indicate the direction to be taken by the new operators.
“If it is in fact a new operator,” interjected Graves. “The current folks have an opportunity to, and we hope they would, participate in the RFP process.”
So, let’s go back to Square 1. Can CLE apply to be the service provider in more than one of the three zones?
A somewhat critical piece of the puzzle.
“The RFP is still being locked down,” explained Graves. “But my sense is it will provide an opportunity for an agency to bid on Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3.”
A bit of evasiveness on the city manager’s part here but does this mean CLE could bid on all three geographical delivery zones across Elgin county?
“We’re getting way down in the weeds here,” is Graves’ allegorical answer.
“I really don’t want to go there until the document is prepared.”
And here I forgot to don my hip waders for this EarlyON voyage of discovery.
However, Graves assured he is happy to have a follow-up conversation once the RFP is developed and maybe tie any loose ends together in terms of timing and flow.
Appreciated, but let’s not venture down any path that involves weeds.
WHAT’S WITH WALNUT STREET?
For a very short stretch of roadway south of Centre Street and adjacent to the St. Thomas Elevated Park, Walnut Street has had no shortage of attention over the years.
What with Old St. Thomas Church and the notorious Walnut Manor next door to that, Walnut Street has been no stranger to the spotlight.
And that profile is likely to increase significantly with a proposed residential development by Domus Developments right next door at 59 Walnut Street.
The London firm has applied for approval of a zoning bylaw amendment in support of a 109-unit development encompassing the existing triplex at number 59.
Domus is proposing the development of six townhouse units, one four-storey apartment consisting of 40 units and one six-storey apartment
consisting of 60 units.
It’s a proposal that endured a rough ride at the Oct. 13 council meeting, led by Coun. Steve Peters armed with notes from three decades in the past.
While the developer refers to it as a medium-density undertaking, city planner Jim McCoomb, based on the amount of land to be developed, ups that to high density.
It’s not the first such proposal on that parcel of land that, at the rear, is designated natural heritage and natural hazard.
“I just sense we can have the public meeting and we’re going to be right back where a council was 29 years ago. For a whole host of reasons, I do not support this.”
Peters took his peers back to that much smaller 1991 development that would have seen two single-detached dwellings, a three-unit townhouse dwelling, a 24-unit apartment dwelling and an open space park component at the corner.
Turning to his notes from a public meeting held at that time, Peters suggested this is very much a case of deja vu.
He cautioned, “I look at the work from the council of the day leading to a site-specific zoning bylaw amendment that was a compromise between a developer and a neighbourhood and a compromise the neighbourhood bought into.
“I hope this is not a case of that was then and this is now.”
City planner Kevin McClure’s report to council notes a public meeting will be held at a future date.
A troublesome item, stressed Peters.
“I just sense we can have the public meeting and we’re going to be right back where a council was 29 years ago.
“For a whole host of reasons, I do not support this.
“My question to Mr. McComb is can we just reject this outright tonight and not even go to a public meeting?”
Appearing sympathetic to Peters’ query McComb advised, “That is always an option for council, however in this particular case staff have recommended we stick to the process as laid out in the planning act just to give the neighbourhood an opportunity to voice their concerns.
“And, realistically, I think we all know what those concerns are likely going to be. So the developer hears from the neighbourhood just how strongly the opposition or support is, whatever it may be.”
McComb continued, subsequently there will be reports to council and then council is allowed to make a decision.
“Part of the outcome of this meeting may be the developer may want to go back to the drawing board and rethink their proposal.”
Not unexpectedly, when the vote was taken to receive the report for information, Peters was the lone voice of opposition.
HIGH STAKES IN HIGH DENSITY
A head’s up to Shaw Valley residents who have a variety of ongoing concerns about a pending development in their backyard.
It’s a contentious proposal known as McGregor Farm Phase 2 and questions have been raised dealing with traffic flow and the encroachment of high-density development in the Shaw Valley neighbourhood.
The developer is seeking to amend the existing zoning to permit 73 single-detached dwellings and two high-density residential blocks with a maximum of 635 dwelling units.
City manager Wendell Graves advised this week an update will be presented to council at Monday’s meeting (Oct. 19) “on the various works being done . . . relative to the studies being done and where the developer is at.”
Graves added, he perceives there might be “some uneasiness” regarding things being done that haven’t been made public yet.
“We don’t have the documentation yet,” noted Graves, “but our planning staff can advise. They will be here next week.”
Doubling back to Coun. Peters reference to deja vu, back in June of this year we quoted the developer’s consultant Glenn Wellings who suggested, “Any potential issues and/or concerns with higher-density residential development adjacent to low-density residential can be fully explored and addressed at the site plan approval stage.”
The deja vu in this case is the Patriot Properties makeover of the former Alma College property.
THE READER’S WRITE . . .
In response to our item last week on Community Living Elgin, Lori Addley forwarded this observation.
“This is another prime example of no one talking to each other in St. Thomas. Let’s hope city council steps up and rescinds this and those workers who have helped/held children and families are allowed to continue.”
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