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Coronavirus: City of Kawartha Lakes recalling laid-off staff

City of Kawartha Lakes Municipal Hall building. Paul Dinsdale/Global News

In April, the City of Kawartha Lakes, Ont., laid off more than 200 staff members after it closed facilities and stopped services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The municipality also put a freeze on its summer hiring program at that time.

Chief Administrative Officer Ron Taylor estimates a third of those who were laid-off have now been recalled.

“I would suggest over this month, we’ll be at 80 per cent callback,” Taylor said.  “The other 20 per cent would be very specific programs that remain suspended.  We’ll be looking at redeployment to shift some of those people on the list and internally into other functions over the summer.”

READ MORE: City of Kawartha Lakes 2021 budget deferred due to coronavirus pandemic

As the province continues to lift some emergency orders, the municipality is working at getting amenities ready to reopen.

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Taylor told reporters on the weekly media teleconference, the remaining two closed landfill sites will be reopened in the next two weeks.

He said maintenance is ramping up, over the next two weeks, at closed facilities such as pools and on sports fields including soccer pitches and baseball diamonds.

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“You can’t just open these things up overnight.  There’s always a minimum of two weeks of mobilizing, whether it’s staff or getting things prepped and prepared with signage and health and safety protocols for these things,” he said.  “We’re in the planning phase for the next round which I anticipate the majority will reopen in July.  We are looking at some expanded service in the immediate term.”

On Tuesday, council received a financial breakdown of the pandemic impact.

The forecast is a $3.2 million shortfall in 2020 which comes mostly from closing facilities and cancelling services at the outset of the pandemic.

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READ MORE: Federal funding offer not enough to cover Ontario’s coronavirus costs, Doug Ford says

Council was informed that staff will continue with a rollback on operational spending in 2020 to help offset the loss.

They were also warned, by corporate services director Jennifer Stover, the revenue loss could increase should the municipality not be able to reopen summer programs and amenities.

But Mayor Andy Letham said right now the projections are ‘bang on.’

“There’s an assumption as the summer and fall come along, some of those programs and our facilities will open up.  We’ll be able to make some revenue for a portion of the year and that’s been factored into that,” he said.  “If that changes and that can’t happen then obviously an adjustment will be made.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: City of Kawartha Lakes projects $3.2 million revenue loss in 2020 due to pandemic

Some projects, including multi-year commitments, such as upgrades at the Ops Community Centre, have been deferred to 2021.

Taylor said that doesn’t mean the project is cancelled or that it will end up costing more, just that some of the work on a shortlist of projects will be pushed into next year.

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However, he said it will cause a ripple effect.

“They are all funded to go ahead.  The majority will go ahead this year, but they are deferred to later this year.  The shortlist, which are items based on the delay or staff resources or contractor limitations, have been deferred to 2021,” he said.  “As we go through the 2021 budget program, we are going to still balance the same considerations.  There’s only a fixed amount of staff resources and capital budget we can work within, so I would suggest some 2021 work will shift down into future years.”

“Some multi-year projects, let’s say 2020-2021 projects will become 2021-2022 projects.  As you push one year back, the second and third year would be pushed back as well,”  said the mayor.

Letham said he doesn’t anticipate the costs for the budgeted projects to increase due to the pandemic.

He added council and the municipal emergency operations centre have agreed to keep the local state of emergency, in line with the provincial declaration, which has been extended to June 30.

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But he did say that long-term it may not be necessary to follow the provincial declaration if it drags on into the fall.

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“We want to have the ability to react on a local level.  I’m comfortable maintaining it right now with the province, but that may be a different conversation in August as we see where things go.”