After almost five months on the job, Grande Prairie’s new city manager is ready to make some changes. Bob Nicolay says since he got to work at the end of January, he’s spent an extensive amount of time getting a handle on the current situation.
“I was out in the community, talking to essentially anyone I could find. I joined a Rotary club, I got out to all of the Rotary clubs in town, I talked to business people, I talked to community people, and I talked to people in the checkout line at Safeway just trying to get a feel for what was going on in Grande Prairie and what their view of the situation was.”
What he found was that despite the efforts of staff, some departments had become decentralized, and that the city’s resources would be better off with a smaller team of senior management. To that end, Community Living director Garry Roth is no longer with the city, and that service area is being combined with Community Safety.
Nicolay explains that should solve some issues with land, commercial, and property development, which were previously split between two divisions and standing committees. If someone was trying to develop an urban property and ran into planning issues, they would likely also run into traffic issues.
“Planning was in one division, traffic was in another; planning reported to one standing committee and traffic to another, and so from the resident’s perspective in Grande Prairie, it was very confusing as to how they could proceed with the development of their property.”
Planning and Developing and Environmental Stewardship will be moved into the same division as Engineering, Transportation, Inspection Services and GIS, all under the eye of Community Safety director Horacio Galanti. Nicolay expects things to officially be combined after the election in October.
Community services functions will then be assumed by Community Growth director Koji Miyaji, while Corporate Services largely stays the same. Nicolay’s own role has expanded as well, but some of those duties will be moved on to the new Chief Financial Officer once hired. Former CFO Ken Anderson retired in May.
The other area Nicolay took a keen interest in was the operation of the Eastlink Centre. Aquatics and Wellness Assistant Manager Carol Longmore is also no longer with the city, as more restructuring is done in that building.
“We had found ourselves in a situation where we had become misaligned with the priorities of the community and unable to continue to offer the same level of programming and accessibility to the Eastlink Centre as we had done historically,” says Nicolay.
He acknowledges that residents had become used to a very high level of service in the facility, and he wants to get back to a place that meets the community’s expectations. While that may not look the same as it did before problems started, the plan is to find an “optimal” balance between spontaneous use, programmed use, and special needs.
With these changes underway, Grande Prairie’s city manager hopes to see the city provide a better service to residents and more dynamic financial planning.
“I just really hope that this is an effective first step toward a municipal organization that serves this community proudly and effectively for many, many years into the future.”