City manager informs council on what his office is doing with the COVID19 pandemic - focus is on informing public and business continuity

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 12th, 2020



They were minutes away from breaking for lunch when City Manager Tim Commisso asked if he could say a few words on the COVID19 situation.

Rory Nisan, who was chairing the Standing Committee on Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability was about to ask if that could be covered after lunch when Commisso began to explain that the city was going to be communicating daily on what the issues were and what the city was doing about COVID 19 – a second case had been announced earlier.

Tim Commisso - finger up hard eyes

City manager Tim Commisso

He pointed out that the Region was the health authority but that the city had to think about such things as operations, keeping places clean and policy issues.

Treasurer Joan Ford explained that she was creating cost centres to keep track of spending while Commisso talked about business continuity and the level of services the city was going to be able to deliver.

There was a concern over what could happen on the revenue side if Parks and Recreation had to refund fees that have been paid. Commisso wanted to ensure that no one got hit with any out of pocket expense.

Commisso also wanted to know what the public felt they needed to know.
His office is thinking through the delineation of essential services and determining what events the city departments have planned and if they should take place.

The province may well decide, he said, to limit how and where people meet and the municipal sector would have to enforce the provincial decisions.

The city has yet to create a point that people can email or call to voice their concerns.

Commisso will be working full out to cobble together the teams of people he is going to need to see us through this situation.

There are two committees in place. The Emergency Management Committee and a Rapid Response committee that has been meeting.

Commisso stare

City manager suddenly has a major public concern issue on his hands – seeing the city through the COVID9 situation.

There are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made on the spot and Commisso wanted the public to know that his office is gong to be open, transparent and communicating every day with the public.

Councillor Nisan noted that they will be meeting at the Region on the 25th and as a Council.

Councillor Kearns jumped in and said waiting that long was not good enough: “We need to be on top of this daily and ensuring that the city manager has the support he needs.

The risk for Halton at this point is low – but there is a risk and failing to identify that risk and deal with it before it gets out of hand is not an option.


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4 comments to City manager informs council on what his office is doing with the COVID19 pandemic – focus is on informing public and business continuity

  • Stephen White

    Having been involved in health and safety and disaster management planning throughout my career I am simply appalled at the lack of planning and consideration that has gone into dealing with emergency issues.

    Essential services should be clearly identified in the disaster management plan which should be reviewed and updated annually. A chief spokesperson on these issues should be clearly identified. An upper echelon planning team comprising key municipal employees should be identified. A protocol should be in place to deal with the redeployment of human resources to critical and essential functions. Most importantly, there should be regular ongoing tests and exercises to practice and evaluate emergency responsiveness and to refine protocols where necessary.

    We’ve been through SARS. We’ve been through 9-11. We’ve been through the 2013 ice storm, and the 2014 flood. Protocols and measures on how to deal with emergencies and contingencies should have been in place long before now. The City shouldn’t be cobbling this together in the midst of a pandemic at the 11th hour.

  • Blair Smith

    “His office is thinking through the delineation of essential services and determining what events the city departments have planned and if they should take place.” I hope that I’m interpreting this incorrectly and that Mr. Commisso is not saying that the City is only now addressing what it believes are its essential services. These should, of course, be well known and one of the essential components of both the City’s core business reviews and budgeting processes. It is also not unusual for mature organizations to have well-developed emergency services plans that can be implemented immediately and without the need for undue deliberation or “delineation”. When an emergency strikes is not the time to try to plan for it.

  • Howard

    Nisan is showing how green he is in the workforce.This is not a problem that is mandated at the region. City services and operations are Tim’s responsibility. What happens if and when staff are forced to stay home. Can they work, some can while others cannot. Garbage at a sports field or arena is a Burlington issue. What happens if 4 out of 7 members of council contract the virus. Is there a game plan in place to address the what if’s ? Who has delegated authority? City operations governance starts with him and not the mayor. He is the expert. He must steer the ship. Hopefully he will not have to dig deep in his BCP plan for everyone’s sake.

  • Penny Hersh

    I question if Burlington is doing all that it should be in the Senior and Community Centres? I attend a class on Thursdays at the Senior Centre from 11:45-1:45PM. There are close to 35 people seated next to each other with tables in front of them.

    One of the people in the class today who was present when staff was setting up the room asked that he wipe down the tables. When asked he did, and then told this person “not to expect the same thing next week, because he was too busy”.

    Is this the way the City is dealing with a virus that seems to pass quickly to others. It is one thing to indicate that the people who tested positive for Covid 19 had been travelling, however, it becomes irrelevant when they come home and pass this virus out into the community.

    I have always found City Hall to be reactive instead of proactive. This seems to be happening yet again. When questioned today another staff member at the Senior Centre said that this is 2 days in the making. No. it has been weeks in the making. Everyone knew (except it seems for City Hall) it was not if but when Burlington would be dealing with Covid 19.

    People need to take precautions, and be responsible, but I would also suggest that City Hall needs to accept some of the responsibility to try to contain this virus.

    Perhaps a survey????? sorry could not resist.