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City Council Receives COVID-19 Updates from Burlington Leadership Team

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*Please see media release below issued by the City of Burlington.

Burlington, Ont. — April 6, 2020 — This morning at the City of Burlington’s Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services Committee Meeting, City Manager Tim Commisso and senior staff updated council on how the City is responding to COVID-19 in Burlington.

“Today’s verbal update provides Council members with up-to-date information related to our COVID 19 emergency response and also lays out our plans moving forward over the next three months. I want to thank all members of council for their support and leadership during the past 23 days, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. We have been focused on one key goal: to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 and its spread, while still providing essential and emergency City services. We want to ensure when the pandemic is over, we are well positioned to resume normal business as soon as possible.  In the meantime, staff and council are working to keep our momentum going with the many strategic initiatives under way including those in Vision to Focus, Councils 4 Year strategic workplan.

As we move forward, we are making assumptions about how long the pandemic will continue. We will be as proactive as we can and bring recommendations to Council where time allows.

I want to acknowledge and thank Council, staff and most importantly, the community for their support and actions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to stay home, stay safe and stop the spread.” — Tim Commisso, Burlington City Manager

Emergency Management and Response

The Emergency Management Program is based on the Updated bylaw, which was approved by council in 2019. At that time, the City completed its annual compliance through the Ontario Fire Marshall and Emergency Management Office.

On March 16, 2020, the City’s response transitioned from the Crisis Management Team during the Level 2 response to the current Level 3 Emergency Control Group (ECG), which will continue emergency planning and management at least through the next three months until the end of June.

The ECG follows the City’s Emergency Plan and operates seven days a week. There are ongoing virtual meetings of various groups, with Departmental Services and Crisis Communications Groups reporting into the ECG daily. The ECG is focusing on situational assessment and time sensitive decision making to make sure essential City operations are maintained and is well positioned to deal with the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic spread in our community.

To date, the ECG has implemented many actions including but not limited to:

  • Closing City Hall and necessary work from home strategies;
  • Developed policies for essential service employees working in the community;
  • Supporting the City’s Emergency Declaration by Mayor Meed Ward on March 21, 2020;
  • Conducting Telephone town hall meetings for staff and the public;
  • Developing format and conducting Virtual City Council Meetings;
  • Closing City Parks and Facilities; and
  • Developing staff retention plans to maintain essential services in a fiscally responsible manner.

Human Resources Impacts

The City currently has a Council approved staff complement 973 full-time employees: 75 per cent provide directly essential services such as Fire and Transit; support essential services such as IT and HR maintain our infrastructure through Roads, Parks and Forestry. The City has a total of 609 employees that can work from home.

In light of City closures of non-essential facilities and programs and the focus on delivering only critical services, the City has made the tough decision to temporarily reduce our workforce. This past week, 668 part-time and temporary employees were either laid off, had their offers of employment rescinded or had their offers delayed indefinitely. This decision is regrettable given the great work and dedicated public service our staff provides to the citizens of Burlington every day.

Employees impacted by the layoffs were notified last week. Supervisors and Human Resources staff are committed to providing these staff with the support they need to take advantage of the financial relief programs offered by the Federal government.

Currently, we expect the layoff will be temporary for a period of up to 13 weeks and we will be revisiting our staffing needs on an ongoing basis.

Financial Impacts

The City is planning carefully through the pandemic to protect and maintain the City’s financial stability by tracking COVID-19 related expenditures and limiting discretionary spending through the Expenditure Restraint Program covering capital and operating expenditures. There is also a freeze on non-essential staff hiring.

At the April 20 Council meeting, staff will present the estimated revenue impacts, expenditure savings and cash flow projections. This will set the stage for monthly updates as new information and/or projections change.

Council Meetings

At the April 20 Meeting, Council will vote on the March and April standing committee items and hear a number of municipal officer reports coming straight to Council. The agenda will include a report from the Clerks Department to set the legislative framework for Council and the public on what to expect for the next few in a virtual environment. Staff will also seek council endorsement of a three-month strategy that is based on the overarching goal; to continue to protect the health and safety of residents and staff and do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In conclusion, the City Manager is committed to providing COVID-19 verbal updates to council at least once a month.

The best thing residents can do to protect themselves and the community, is stay home.

MAYOR MEED WARD’S TAKE:

I support the tough staffing decisions that have been made today as a result of the many facility closures and program cancellations that have resulted from COVID-19. Like many local businesses and neighbouring municipalities, we have had to deal with reduced staffing and layoffs. I empathize with all the affected employees, and I know our teams have handled each conversation with the utmost care and professionalism during this difficult time. The City continues to work hard every day to review and balance the essential needs of our community with the new financial reality this pandemic has created. Our number one priority remains the health and well-being of our community.

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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