Consultant delivers frank report on Holyrood’s municipal operations

By Craig Westcott
September 22, 2023 Edition

Holyrood council voted to accept Tuesday an operational review which found the town top heavy in its management structure and makes 20 recommendations for improvements.

Consultant Pat Curran undertook the review of the Town’s operations and compared Holyrood’s structure with five similarly sized municipalities – Burin, Pouch Cove, Spaniard’s Bay, Glovertown and Logy Bay. Curran found that while Holyrood was slightly larger than the other towns in size, population and, with the exception of Burin also in the size of its budget, it also had the most managers on staff and the highest ratio of managers to employees. Holyrood was also the only town, other than Pouch Cove, to have a chief administrative officer at the top of the management ladder.

Curran noted the CAO position combines the normally separate roles of Town Clerk and Town Manager, though some towns have one person filling the two positions. Holyrood is also the only one among the six that pays its managers stipends for extra work in addition to their regular salaries. In all cases, Holyrood’s level of salary for the position was higher than the other municipalities used in the comparison, but even at $107,605 to $120,737, still only about half of what the same position pays in St. John’s, Mount Pearl and CBS.

Curran pointed out the shape of Holyrood’s management structure was something that developed over a considerable time. He is recommending a new structure with a combined Town Clerk/Town Manager at the top and four department heads: Corporate Services, Community Services, Planning and Public Works and Fire and Emergency Services, each headed by a director.

Curran also recommended that council review and adopt a revised pay scale for the positions. He noted Holyrood’s “current management compensation is high by some standards when compared to other more rural municipalities yet low when compared to other larger municipalities on the Northeast Avalon.”

The consultant also recommended cutting at least one management position.

“The Town should eliminate the current Business Development and Marketing Coordinator position and place primary responsibility for these functions, along with strategic planning, with the CAO,” Curran advised.
The consultant Holyrood has adequate staff to maintain current service levels.

“Anticipated areas that might be considered for additional staffing include municipal enforcement and recreation program supports,” he allowed. “In Public Works and Infrastructure, the Town should consider extending the annual term of service for seasonal employees, enabling more ongoing maintenance work to be completed.”

Curran’s report contained another finding that council will have to address. “There is a sense that Council, management and staff no longer work as a team and in particular, there is less collaboration among and between staff and departments than there would have been in the past,” said the consultant, who interviewed everyone who works for the Town during his deliberations. “There are concerns over staff and management morale and the need for a renewed level of trust between Council, management and staff.”

Mayor Gary Goobie said he was pleased to present the report.

“While this external process took a little longer than we had anticipated, I will say it was conducted in a very professional, unbiased and independent manner, which was most important to council, rather than pushing it through for the sake of expediency,” Goobie said. 

Goobie said everyone in town had ample opportunity to express their views and concerns. He added some of the analysis indicates Holyrood is making positive progress.

“Equally, the report clearly identified areas where adjustments and improvements should be considered,” Goobie admitted. “I’m sure council will agree these are the items that will be prioritized and implemented during our term… So overall I am pleased with this document, and it provides us with the clearer picture of what we have to do as per the recommendations from our residents and consultant. Now it’s up to us to transform those recommended improvements into actual achievements.”

Councillor Steve Winsor, who had pushed for a review of the Town’s operations since being elected last year, said Curran’s report offered a good “benchmark” as to how Holyrood compares with other communities. He thanked Curran, whom he described as very knowledgeable and professional. “And in my opinion, and I think it’s shared, he went above and beyond what we asked him to do,” said the councillor. “He delivered his scope of work and then some, and most importantly… took the time to do it right.”

Winsor said there are a couple of key points resulting from the report, one being the need for Holyrood to balance its fiscal capacity against its service expectations while at the same time planning for the future.

“We wanted to make sure everybody had an opportunity to participate,” Winsor said. “For example, 23 interviews were conducted, six focus groups, 194 surveys, 14 written submissions, and one public consultation session. That’s the work that was done by the consultant to make sure the people had different opportunities to get involved.”

Winsor said the next step will be to prioritize Curran’s recommendations.

“The work is continuing,” added Winsor. “The mayor talked about some things are already happening. But there’s a lot of other work needs to happen, and council needs to prioritize and collaborate with staff to execute them in a sensible manner. That’s going to take some time and effort, but I think it’s important.”

Councillor Bruce King said the report “is an excellent roadmap” for council to use for the remaining two years of its term, and for the next council to use as well.

“I’m looking forward to working with everybody in here, plus staff, plus the community to take a lot of these things off the paper and put it into actual reality,” King said.

Curran also delivered a 31-page strategic plan containing 66 recommendations that he said council should act on over the course of the next four years. They address everything from the new electric buses being provided by Ottawa, to the operations of the town’s museum. Both reports are available for viewing on the Town’s website.

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