Worn out from years of attempts to eliminate them as municipal planning consultants, Storey Samways Planning Ltd. told Chatham-Kent council Monday the firm won’t renew its contract when it expires in May of next year.
Tom Storey spoke before council to address what he said was the fifth attempt by municipal officials since amalgamation to eliminate the firm.
Council has rebuffed the requests each previous time.
He said dealing with senior municipal administration has left the firm “bitter and fed up,” and after a meeting of partners, the firm has decided, “we’re done. It’s affecting our health,” he said. “It’s like a death of a thousand cuts. It’s stomach aches and anxiety.”
He said interaction with senior administration has “made our jobs so unpleasant that we don’t want to do them.”
Paul Courey, a Tilbury lawyer speaking on behalf of the Kent Law Society, said his group opposes the move to an in-house planning department.
“We are your customers or our customers are your customers, and to the best of our knowledge no one asked.”
He said the group “likes what we get for what we pay. (We get) prompt responses from competent people.”
Courey said planning before Storey was employed was “a train wreck.” He said the municipality is not looking at the entire picture in terms of cost since the number of permits varies from year to year and can adjust expenses more easily if it is contracting out the business.
“You don’t lay people off here.”
Storey strongly objected to parts of the administration report which he said, “seriously distorts the facts” concerning charges by his firm. The report to council projected a $178,000 first-year savings and an ongoing savings of $141,000 annually.
Storey rejected the idea that savings can come from the municipality’s base budget since the cost isn’t even in that document.
He said his firm proposed a number of other options regarding planning but those to his knowledge were never sent to council.
“They were discarded without explanation,” he said.
Storey said the “never say die” attitude of administration would mean a loss of 70% of the firm’s business.
Council approved the recommendation to bring planning in house by an 11-5 vote. Councillors Jeff Wesley and Carmen McGregor abstained.
Don Shropshire, CAO for the municipality, said there was no vendetta against Storey Samways, just a quest for cost savings.
“Administration has an ongoing process that includes day-to-day management and service reviews to evaluate all municipal services in order to identify opportunities to reduce costs and improve services to the public,” he said. “Council has made decisions to change service delivery models when they have determined there is an opportunity to improve services or provide a better value to the taxpayer. Both recommendations by administration and council’s past decisions indicate there is no bias for one delivery model over another.”
He said Monday’s decision to bring planning back in-house backs such efforts.