If the city’s heritage co-ordinator position is cut, programs will be jeopardized and momentum impeded, says one Brandon city councillor.
Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser), chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, expressed his concern and disappointment surrounding the heritage position, which was vacated two months ago.
The city posted the position and began taking applications before deciding it would be under review.
"What troubles me is that we went through the process of advertising it," Roberts said. "We had a tremendous amount of applicants come through … then the process sort of stalled."
As part of MHAC’s operating budget, funds were set aside for staffing one position.
It was a three-year contract position, which was vacated by Katy Singleton halfway through in May.
It has been a contracted position since 2009. Prior to that, it was part of the city clerk’s function.
"It’s a very important, key position," Roberts said.
"Over the last couple of years, we’ve become very proactive with programs and designating locations and being very much more active than it had been over the previous decade."
Roberts said the co-ordinator has a variety of important roles, including keeping track of renovations at heritage homes, ensuring permits are in place, dealing with Brandon and Area Planning District to make sure processes go smoothly, answering questions for people wanting to have their home designated as a heritage location, as well as working closely with the committee.
"It’s very important to manage and protect the heritage within the city because once it’s gone and damaged, there’s no coming back."
During the summer months, Roberts said he has been doing his best to step in where necessary in the absence of a co-ordinator.
"It just worries me that they’ve kept the chair of the committee and the rest of city council out of the loop by not informing us that this position wasn’t going to be filled," Roberts said. "It’s putting it in jeopardy, the longer that we wait."
City manager Scott Hildebrand said all positions are reviewed through the vacancy management program, even if they are contract positions.
"We review all positions to understand the need and see if we could somehow do something different," he said. "Or if it’s absolutely needed, then we continue to move forward and fill the position."
The city is in preparation mode for the 2014-15 budget, and Hildebrand has told human resources to freeze any hiring unless "absolutely necessary."
"They need to come through me in order to fill them, along with the vacancy committee," he said. "We’re preparing for next year’s budget, we’re making sure that everything is in order. I think that’s the responsible thing to do in any vacant position."
Hildebrand said the heritage position wasn’t a priority over the past few weeks, as the city dealt with the flood emergency, but stressed it isn’t necessarily cut.
"We still may go forward with it," he said. "We’ll review all those key positions in the next few weeks and the decision will be made from there."
Hildebrand noted that council is aware of the vacancy management process, and they have "endorsed it all along."
"I spoke to it many times in front of council, both publicly and privately, so this isn’t a surprise for anyone," he said.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 23, 2014