Uncertain future for MRC engineering services

0
34

Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – The future of the MRC Pontiac’s engineering department has been called into question with the announcement of the MRC’s intention to end its service agreement with municipalities in a resolution at the August 16 meeting of the Council of Mayors.

Since September 2018, the MRC has offered engineering services to municipalities. According to the agreement made at that time, municipalities were entitled to 15 hours of basic engineering services per year, with the option to pay for additional hours at a discounted rate. In February 2023, the MRC’s civil engineer, Kim Lesage, left that position to take on the role of director general and clerk-treasurer. Since then, Lesage has provided limited engineering services for projects already underway.

The engineer position was posted twice over several months, but no qualified candidates were found. “With the lack of manpower everywhere, there’s a demand for engineers, and finding engineers wanting to leave big cities to come to a small town is difficult,” Lesage said in an interview with CHIP FM.

The inability to fill the position has left the MRC unable to meet its obligations to the municipalities under the current service agreement. “Kim can’t be expected to do both … and right now, her priority is to be the DG,” said Warden Jane Toller.

Several mayors expressed concern. “Is the search ongoing for an engineer? Can it be?” asked Shawville Mayor Bill McCleary. “It’s very hard to engage an engineering firm and very expensive. When Kim was the engineer at the MRC, it was well served, and the 18 municipalities were too. I don’t want to see the position dropped,” he added, noting he understands Lesage can’t do both jobs.

Services will end 60 days from the August 16 resolution. Lesage said she expects to wrap up the dozen or so projects underway in that time. After that, the MRC will return to providing a list of engineers available to the municipalities by contract, as it did prior to 2018.

The mayors are expected to decide whether to continue the search for an engineer or permanently close the department later this fall.