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Planning is underway at the city for restoration of services

City operations could have a different look post COVID-19
Tom Davis Square 1 (2018)
Tom Davies Square. (File)

City of Greater Sudbury council was provided with an update on May 5 on the impacts that COVID-19 has had to city services.

It has been one month to the day since mayor Brian Bigger declared a state of emergency on April 6, which will remain in effect for the duration of the provincial state of emergency.

On April 7, city staff provided a report to council that classified municipal services under three categories: suspended, modified, or remain ongoing. 

On April 9, as a result of extended facility closures and the suspension of non-essential services, the city temporarily suspended the employment of 322 seasonal and part-time staff in affected areas.

Most of the affected staff provide services in recreation programs, parks, libraries and as school crossing guards.

The three classifications of city services remain in place, though the city is now following in the footsteps of the province in looking toward restoration of services.

Greater Sudbury CAO Ed Archer provided a report to council on Tuesday, updating them on the impacts of COVID-19, while indicating that a staff team is working to assess municipal services affected by the Covid-19 response and recommend an approach for how/when to restore services to a routine, non-emergency state.

Restoring the city to pre-pandemic levels of service will be done in a measured way, following the advice of the province and public health officials, though Archer said that the changes that have been brought upon them by COVID-19 could spawn new ways of doing business in the future.

"I don't think anyone should anticipate that what we go back to is what we're used to. There are changes to the way we do this work that will likely be with us for some time," said Archer.

Aside from physical distancing requirements and the potential need for personal protective equipment such as masks or gowns, Archer explained that the city could be looking at changes that could last long after the pandemic has ended.

"We have several staff teams that are being led by my office through Ian Wood's leadership to assess the services we're providing now, see the opportunities that we've created by changing services that should continue in a new form," said Archer.

"We've made improvements to some of the services through the use of technology. Most of us spend our days looking at our devices and video meetings because we're all working from home and still making sure services are being delivered. There are opportunities to leverage some of these process improvements and changes on a permanent basis, and so we've got a team looking at those."

With the numerous changes made during the last two months, the team will identify opportunities to sustain the new and creative ways introduced for delivering services that should continue as part of regular operations. 

This will include an assessment of alternate work arrangements created as part of the corporation’s COVID-19 response, especially work from home.

Timing for any service restoration efforts will consider provincial changes, such as the eventual staged lifting of provincial orders and public health guidelines.

"All of this to say however, the timing of this service restoration isn't like flipping a switch," said Archer. "The restoration process and whatever period of time we need to get back to a steady state is going to take some months, and it will be largely driven by provincial direction, public health guidance and collaboration with peer organizations."

Archer also provided a brief snapshot of the financial impacts of COVID-19, indicating that the effects of the city's COVID-19 response is causing an estimated $370,000 in net losses per week, largely due to lost revenues.

There will be a more detailed report on finanical impacts coming to the city's finance and administration committee on May 12.