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Business as 'pandemic usual' in Penetanguishene

Essential services still available throughout the town; staff is watching for an indication for when the province can move towards recovery, says CAO.
Jeff Lees, chief administrative officer, presented an update to council members at a virtual meeting Wednesday. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday

Penetanguishene's CAO assured council that residents are being provided with essential services as usual even in pandemic times.

"Everyone recognizes that things are changing regularly and frequently, in some case continuing to require our emergency management control group to make significant decisions in a very quick fashion,",CAO Jeff Lees said during a virtual council meeting Wednesday.

"All of our decisions continue to be based on providing essential services to our residents."

Now in week six of this pandemic, he said the control group along with the senior-leadership and middle-management teams and frontline staff continue to work around the clock to keep up with the ever-growing changes.

"We continue to meet twice a week and adjust that as, or if, needed, based on information coming out," said Lees. "In the meantime, our entire staff complement continues to meet with their counterparts in other municipalities."

Among other concerns is the need to keep town staff healthy by limiting contact as much as possible, he said. 

Administrative and internal staff continue to work under a "full remote work protocol," which began around March 23.

In addition, he said staff working outside are operating under revised conditions such as being assigned one vehicle.

"All staff are contributing their regular hours so our services have as minimal disruptions as possible," Lees noted.

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur said he wasn't sure which of the several updates previously provided by the CAO had indicated that staff would be working from home rather than coming to the town hall in small teams on alternate days.

"It was my understanding that Penetang had broken into teams, no more than three members per team and they were alternating working at the office and from home," he said. "I've learned today that that's not the case. In fact, there are cases where the full complement is working from home and I'm curious when that transition took place."

Lees said he could find out which of his updates had included that information and get back to the councillor.

"Staff are still working in teams --- on alternating days --- if they have to come in," said Lees, who also talked about changes to some municipal services.

"As everyone knows transit services have seen a little bit of a change based on staffing changes with our provider through the Town of Midland," Lees said. "Our municipal wharf and launch ramp did close on April 6. We continue to stress physical distancing to the public, reiterating our facility closures, including rec. amenties and facilities."

Next, he discussed the brief flooding episode at the town wharf.

"Staff continue to monitor that situation," Lees said. "We will continue to communicate with the public accordingly and are very cognizant that the safety and risks that might pose. Needless to say, it has created some additional cleanup responsibilities, which staff has responded to in a very timely fashion."

He said staff are reaching out to seniors in the community, who have participated in municipal programs, to make sure they're aware of 211 and other resources available to them.

"Considering the increase in the need for the town to increase its communication with residents a recreation and community services staff member has been redeployed to assist with that," he said.

Lees said calls relating to complaints around the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act continues to be handled by the OPP through their non-emergency number (888) 310-1122 and online portal.

"We are continuing to keep an eye on the recovery so that we know the particulars of coming out of this crisis on the other side," Lees said. "Every decision continues to come with a communication plan that is quite robust and that will continue on an ongoing basis."