ERCA Looks at New Hires to Catch Up with Permit Backlog

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The Essex Region Conservation Authority will add two new inspectors to its proposed 2021 Budget.

ERCA is behind on 35 per cent of its building and planning permit requests with provincially mandated deadlines in 2020.

That's because applications are up 75 per cent since 2015, and ERCA's only added three new inspectors over that span.

Interim General Manager Tim Byrne presented a report showing ERCA screened 1,842 permits in 2019 with only nine inspectors while Toronto's authority processed 1,988 with 21 inspectors.

Byrne persuaded the board to approve two more inspectors in 2021 to catch up at a cost of around $100,000 in total annual salary Thursday night.

"We have to react and respect the wishes of the board in respect to budgets as they're being approved," he says. "As an agency though, we have a responsibility under statute to respond to these submissions."

Byrne says there are firm deadlines from the province once a permit request is submitted that aren't being met.

"This is core mandated work and, if we're going to meet those provincially instructed timelines, the personnel have to be there to respond," he says.

Byrne says many of the municipalities ERCA was compared to in the report have bigger budgets and more staff supporting similar workloads.

"The comparators that we looked at and required from them was, staff were engaged in operational plan review and section 28 permit review," he added.

The authority added one more inspector in 2020, the new additions in 2021 would bring the total to 12.

Byrne says the bulk of the additional salary will be offset by applicant fees.