By Robert Washburn
In an effort to build better relations with Cobourg residents, council decided to spend $40,000 from a contingency fund to hire a consultant to develop a communication strategy Monday night.
The unplanned expenditure comes as part of the town’s Strategic Plan, which says its first objective is to “ensure open, clear and timely communications”, said Deputy Mayor Stan Frost.
“We are trying to have a better level of engagement with the citizens of Cobourg,” Frost said.
It is the second time council has approved an unplanned expenditure in the last two weeks. The town staff approved $6,000 for tests on holes or voids on the east pier to ensure it is safe for Canada Day and the Waterfront Festival.
Frost said the budget is very complex and money is put aside for such unplanned items. He also said the timing was a factor as the strategic planning process took place after the budget was set.
The consultant will advise council on ways to better interact with the public and ensure people know what is going on. One example is the manner in which trees are cut down. Many times residents are unaware of the reasons and often the public becomes angry because they don’t understand what is taking place, Frost said.
Another example is the annual bicycle races each summer.
“In my end of town, suddenly the street is blocked off and all these cyclists come racing by. And, if you didn’t know what is going on, you would wonder why you could not back out of your driveway,” he said.
He feels the town can do a better job keeping the public informed.
“The days are long gone when all you had to do was put an advertisement in the newspaper,” he said.
With social media, the Internet and other technologies, the town needs to be more sophisticated, he added.
The decision must be given final approval next Monday night.