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Woolwich councillors quickly add to growing staff, increase payroll costs

Woolwich’s ever-swelling ranks are set to grow even larger, as councillors this week approved the addition of another staff position. A fairly recent contract position, recreation program coordinator, will become a permanent position.

The move will add at least $10,000 to the growing payroll budget.

The departure of the incumbent for another job prompted recreation director Karen Makela to request the position be made permanent to make it more attractive to candidates.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan, however, was less than impressed with the timing, arguing for a deferral until councillors had had a chance to talk about staffing levels, the township’s single-largest budget expense.

“I am personally offended. I feel staff hasn’t listened,” he said of bringing forward the change prior to a review.

Nor was he convinced of the need for the job, noting the contract position cost some $50,000 a year, while program revenue increased by just $6,000 last year and some $6,500 so far in 2015.

“When I look at these numbers, to me they’re not good numbers.”

In attempting to justify the position, Makela pointed out the number of programs on offer at the WMC increased by about 50 per cent, with participation up 60 per cent, prompting Merlihan to point out the actual numbers are quite small.

Only Coun. Scott Hahn supported his motion for deferring a decision, however.

“It’s a key position that we will always need,” argued Mayor Sandy Shantz, though neither the report nor the discussion backed up that assertion.

“I’m not buying it. How are these numbers that make sense?” said Merlihan.

He pressed for a meeting to discuss a payroll cost and staffing level document prepared at council’s request but never discussed.

“It’s half the budget. We need to talk about it,” he said, noting that otherwise the report was a waste of time.

Visibly angry, he accused staff of making an end-run around the review and an early discussion of a hiring freeze.

A testy David Brenneman, chief administrative officer, took exception, saying the minutes would show staff had never been given instructions to arrange a meeting to discuss staffing levels.

A special meeting will be scheduled in September, likely in combination with preliminary talks about the 2016 budget.

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