North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he will begin to hold informal coffee-shop meetings with the public to give people an opportunity to voice opinions and ideas about the running of the municipality. (File photo)

North Cowichan looking for more public input — and they’ve budgeted $27K to get it

Council decides to conduct citizen satisfaction survey and hold training sessions for staff

The Municipality of North Cowichan has set aside $27,000 in its budget for 2019 for a citizen satisfaction survey and public-participation training for employees.

Council gave thumbs up to the initiatives, with the survey costing up to $15,000 and the staff training up to $12,000, at its meeting on Jan. 16.

A citizen satisfaction survey is seen as a statistically valid method of collecting feedback from residents about their satisfaction with the municipality’s programs and services.

While the City of Duncan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have used citizen satisfaction surveys before, mainly using telephone and online surveys of the population, to gather data, this will be North Cowichan’s first satisfaction survey.

RELATED STORY: CITY OF DUNCAN GETS 8 OUT OF 10 FROM RESIDENTS

Now that the $15,000 has been approved for the satisfaction survey, staff can begin to seek independent experts for this work.

The survey is expected to be conducted in the first half of 2019.

In a staff report, North Cowichan’s manager of communications and strategic initiatives Natasha Horsman said public agencies everywhere are hearing that citizens want more information and the ability to provide input into decisions that affect or interest them.

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring added that, in the past, the municipality would look to the CVRD’s citizen satisfaction surveys to determine how North Cowichan’s residents feel about the services provided by the municipality and where they think the priorities should be.

But he said it was decided that North Cowichan needed specific information from its residents on municipal issues, particularly at this time when a new council is starting its term, so a decision was made to conduct a separate citizen satisfaction survey.

Horsman said that, as part of the more robust public-engagement process that North Cowichan is embarking on, council is also increasingly asking municipal employees to inform or engage with residents.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN WILL NOW HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS IN THE EVENINGS

“To be successful, consultation or public participation activities require trust, authenticity, and perhaps most importantly, extensive planning,” Horsman said.

“As the municipality continues to enhance its public participation activities, it is critical that council and employees have opportunities to develop knowledge and tools about best practices.”

Horseman said the International Association of Public Participation provides an internationally recognized framework for public participation, and a half-day workshop for elected officials in the municipality has been scheduled with a trainer in February.

She said staff want to bring the trainer from the workshop back to the Cowichan Valley later in the spring to provide 40 to 50 North Cowichan employees with a one-day boot camp on public participation.

“The $12,000 budget breaks down to a cost of between $240 to $300 per person, which is competitive,” Horsman said.

“It should be noted that this training initiative is being developed cooperatively by communications staff across the CVRD. All members of the regional district have been, or will be, invited to participate, along with the Cowichan Valley school district.”

Siebring said the training for elected officials and staff is the result of increased expectations in the municipality of the best ways to engage with the public.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN’S NEW MAYOR READY TO BRING CHANGE

“It’s been a challenge for some time that the usual voices we hear from are from both ends of the political spectrum, with few from the majority in between, so we need a more broad engagement with those who don’t normally show up at council meetings,” he said.

“The citizen satisfaction survey and the training cost money, but we’ve been hearing for years that the municipality is not plugged into the community and there are costs to try to deal with that.”

Siebring also said he intends to move forward with his plans to hold coffee sessions to meet the public and gather input at various venues around North Cowichan once a month, except for the summer months, with the first one to be held in February.

The time and place of each coffee session will be advertised beforehand.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cowichan Green Community eyes funding for value added food processing

The folks at Cowichan Green Community are licking their chops after the… Continue reading

Cowichan lacrosse grads square off in Jr. B playoffs

Delta takes series after win in Duncan

Roller derby returns to Cowichan Exhibition’s Mellor Hall

Food trucks, beer garden, roller disco all on tap for July 27

Adult soccer tryouts for 2019-20 season coming in August

Six teams on track to represent Cowichan Valley

VIDEO: Compton and Cooper share first place in Duncan Has Talent while Heard takes third

A difficult decision was made easier by splitting the first and second place prize money between two

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Chinook retention begins on North Island, but amid new size limit

DFO calls measures ‘difficult but necessary’ following rockslide on Fraser River

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Injured humpback returns to waters near Comox a year later

Photographer spotted Ocular near Comox again and noticed the whale has been healing

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

Most Read