In 2020 Council hired a consultant to review “Service Delivery” and shortly after (in 2021) also used a consultant to review the Town’s organization. But at Monday’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting, the Agenda included approval of a consultant (Watson and Associates) for $91K to review user fees as recommended in the Service Delivery review. Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin thought that this knowledge was available from Staff and that the cost was excessive so she moved that the work be done by Staff instead. The rationale for the consultant was that there were not enough Staff resources or expertise and that the report would provide a justification for charges. In addition “it is also expected that the methodology developed in the study will allow for annual updates to ensure that the fee schedule stays current.”
Suzanne’s motion (available in Resources below) stated that the budget was $35K and that “according to the Staff Report there are no guarantees that this project will lead to additional user fee revenue to offset the cost of $91,288.90.”
But other councillors saw the cost as an investment and that there would in fact be “additional user fee revenue”.
Mayor John Henderson said that there had been no review for 12 years so he would not support Suzanne’s motion to have the review done by staff. Treasurer Ian Davey justified the high cost by saying that it actually had two parts: 1) a review of what other Municipalities charged and 2) analysis of actual costs so that fees could be justified [Editor’s Note: although only for planning application fees].
CAO Tracey Vaughan and Directors Brian Geerts and Anne Taylor-Scott were supportive of using a consultant but Suzanne pointed out that they should already know the answers and a consultant was not needed. However, Tracy said that “Directors are not experts in this and don’t have the capacity”. But Suzanne pointed out that the consultants talk to staff so will be taking up their time anyway. Suzanne was also critical that there are many consultant reports where nothing has been done. Tracy responded that both the Service Delivery report and Organization Review were being actioned.
There was a second bid in response to the RFP from Urban Metrics for less than the budget but it was not chosen since it was simply a review of fees charged by other Municipalities and Urban Metrics were considered less capable of doing the work.
The bid from Watson and Associates included an additional amount of $14,760 to provide “a detailed full cost assessment of planning application fees by application type to inform fee recommendations that are defensible and better align user fee revenues with the levels of effort and costs associated with each type of planning application.” [Quote from Staff report on RFP Award]. This addition was accepted and brought the total to $91K.
After considerable debate, Councillor Aaron Burchat moved that the motion on the Agenda be passed and not Suzanne’s (both are available below). That is, he moved that the consultant be awarded the tender at $91K.
At Suzanne’s request, a recorded vote was held. Voting in favour of a consultant: John Henderson, Brian Darling, Aaron Burchat, Adam Bureau. Voting against award of the contract to the consultant: Suzanne Séguin, Nicole Beatty, Emily Chorley.
Since this was a CoW meeting, it needs to be ratified at next week’s regular Council meeting.
- Motion by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin that Staff provide the Review of fees
- Motion proposed by Staff and approved
Earlier Consultant reports
Available on Cobourg News Blog
- Service Levels Review Final Report -16 November 2020 – includes Final Report by KPMG and the Presentation to Council
- Organizational Review – open session report – pdf- see especially the 11 page Executive Summary
- Presentation by KPMG on their Organization review – pdf – by Oscar Polini