Tuesday, March 20, 2007

211 a reality

The tax and spend crowd won last night.

Councillors Jones, Postma, Hatfield, Marra and Valentinis voted to take on this new service. Councillors Dilkens, Gignac, Brister and Halberstadt were opposed with Councillor Lewenza and the Mayor not present.

We've just downloaded a new service onto the City with no long term funding available from the Province and an inequitable cost sharing agreement with the County. (The City/County split of the costs does not take into account the large amount of Windsor funds that have gone into the establishment of the current 311 service. )

We've added 3.5 full time equivalent positions to the city with all the associated long term pay, benefits and pension requirements. I'm really looking forward to seeing the cost sharing agreement that will guarantee these costs will continue to be shared between all three funders into the future. (Windsor/County and the United Way).

Things to watch for in the near future:
1. no infrastructure costs to the City as a result of adding 211? (outside of the one-time provincial funding of $200,000)

2. call volume projections - will probably be found to be too low

3. staffing projections - too low requiring the addition of 1 to 2 more staff

4. Database maintenance/upkeep/upgrading - more difficult/time intensive than projected, requiring further staffing/IT resources

5. 24 hr service will require the contracting out of after hours calls to another 211 Call Centre in Ontario. Yet another long term cost that appears rather fuzzy. This cost must be at least on a break-even basis for the other call centre, if not at a profit. Going forward we will be at the mercy of the other centre's funding decisions. Don't like it? Then we will have to in-source that capability. 168 hours in a week, 311 currently operates for 83 hours. We must contract out 85 hours per week.
One other thing, while not directly related, is worth noting. I was quite surprised at some of the cheap political shots that occurred during this debate at council and at several other times during the evening. It has certainly motivated me to move forward with something that I have contemplated for a while - digitally recording Council meetings. Thanks to a snazzy PC TV Capture card, a little bit of software, a few clicks and some hard drive space that task has now been completed.