Big change in the air at City of Nelson

Some of city’s busiest departments reshuffled all in the name of improved service, cost savings and new revenues

Dave Wahn and Allen Fillion in front of Nelson City Hall.

Dave Wahn and Allen Fillion in front of Nelson City Hall.

With spring right around the corner, the City of Nelson is making changes to its managerial line-up and departmental structure — a good-news move that will improve service to both the public and building sector, save hundreds of thousands of dollars and generate new revenues.

The changes will strengthen a number of the city’s busiest offices — including planning, building inspection, engineering, facilities management and subdivision approval  — with two bosses changing hats, and a third veteran department head hanging his up.

The new department — called development services and engineering — will bring all the above services together, under one roof, and will be headed by Allen Fillion, who has been with the City since 2006.

Fillion will continue to oversee the city’s engineering services, and will also assume direction of development services, from Dave Wahn, the out-going manager of development services and sustainability. Wahn, who has worked in the municipal planning sector for almost thirty years, is retiring.

The city is also losing their current planner, Daphne Powell, who is moving on to new career opportunities. The search is underway for her replacement. Long-time building inspector Bernie Zimmer, who recently retired, has been replaced by Brian Champlin, who comes from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

Mayor John Dooley says he believes change creates opportunity, adding that the moves — which do not add any additional managerial positions — are coming after the tremendous progress that has been made in both the city’s engineering and development services departments.

“We see this as an opportunity to improve service to the community,” says Dooley. “By bringing engineering and development services under one roof, builders will be able to get all their questions answered at one place.”

The new department will be located on the second floor at City Hall.

There are a number of excellent development projects in the works including: the first phase of Nelson Landing; a multi-unit residential project alongside Granite Point Golf Course; and the Nelson Commons project.

Beyond improved services, the shuffle will create additional opportunities to save cash and earn the city new revenues, by offering engineering services to new clients.

“Ten years ago we were doing approximately one block of water main replacement per year,” city manager Kevin Cormack explains, “now we are doing as many as 15 blocks every 12 months — and doing the majority of that engineering in-house.”

Had that service been hired out, Nelson taxpayers would have spent an additional $500,000 in 2013 alone on engineering consulting services.

“Not only do we see the opportunity to do additional engineering work in-house,” Cormack adds, “but we also see the opportunity to do engineering work for other municipalities in the region.”

Fillion, a father of three and local kids’ hockey coach, is perfect for the job, says Cormack. As for Wahn, a dad of two grown kids, Cormack says the retiring planning boss has a lot to be proud of after a high-pressure six-year stretch at City Hall.

“During Dave’s tenure we’ve completed some major long-term planning efforts that lay out a comprehensive vision for our community.”

“The biggest piece of the puzzle was the zoning bylaw, originally written in 1987, and which Dave and his staff completely overhauled,” Cormack continues. “That work has put the city in very good shape going forward and has allowed this reorganization to happen at this time.”

In addition to Fillion’s new job and Wahn’s new horizons, City of Nelson’s Rob Nystrom has a new job too. He moves over from manager of engineering to manager of utilities.

The restructuring will be completed and the new managers in place by May 31.