Building boom adds stress to public works – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – December 12, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – The city’s “building boom” is resulting in unprecedented work loads and stress levels for Timmins’ community development and public works employees, explained department head Mark Jensen. In pre-budget discussions with city council, Jensen said that many of the department’s challenges are caused by a mix a comparatively low staffing levels, a rapid increase in building permit applications, and a giant geographical area to cover.

To help with efforts such as cutting down on illegal building activity, keeping up with permit processing, and managing increasing administrative duties, Jensen recommended the creation of a new position in the building inspection division.

“A good amount of that demand is coming from our non-residential permit activity,” explained Jensen. “When I say that, we’re looking at the commercial and industrial sectors, and institutional as well. It’s not to say the residential sector isn’t also realizing notable increases over previous years, because it certainly has as well.”

He used the comparable municipalities of Cornwall (pop. 45,965), Belleville (pop. 48,821) and North Bay (pop. 53,980) to make his point. Belleville’s has 11 building inspection staff, Cornwall and North Bay each have eight, while Timmins currently has five-and-a-half full-time employees in the division.

Jensen said the stress on his employees comes largely from the sheer size of the municipality; Timmins measures nearly 3,000 square kilometres, compared to North Bay’s 315, Belleville’s 250 and Cornwall’s 80.

“The reality is our staff have to travel a lot further to do site inspections than other comparable municipalities,” said Jensen. “When you look at staffing levels, we’re about two-and-a-half employees short compared to other municipalities of our size undertaking very similar levels of building activity. I would contend we are short-staffed, and I see it every day.

“I don’t want us to be overstaffed one day if the boom subsides, so I thought we could give it a shot with one new employee.”

Expected vehicle maintenance and replacement costs are also expenditures which Jensen said are mostly due to Timmins’ land mass.

The pesky, and “fairly recent” increase in illegal building activity has made things even tougher on staff, Jensen said. He recommended a two-year contract assessment and property advisor position be created to alleviate the burden and crack down on the problem.

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