Erieau shoreline. April 16, 2018. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Chatham-Kent set to hire an environmental planner

Before the flooding even took place this past week, Chatham-Kent was already looking to bring in someone who could help plan for these kinds of situations.

The municipality successfully allocated $108,000 in the 2019 budget to go towards the hiring of an environmental planner.

The person who gets hired in the position will have a long list of responsibilities including providing insight on issues such flooding and climate change, assisting with environmental consideration for land development decisions, improving Chatham-Kent’s natural resources, helping with a storm sewer master plan, wetland restoration and energy planning.

According to Chatham-Kent’s director of planning services, Bruce McAllister, there are currently no municipal staff with the expertise to fill the environmental planner position. He said creating the role will eliminate some of the need for the municipality to hire outside consultants for environmental issues, which will save money in the long run.

“We feel it would be more efficient to have this expertise in house,” said McAllister. “As these issues become more and more to the forefront, in the long run, good environmental planning will certainly help with infrastructure decisions and investments and economic development in general.”

McAllister said the role will help Chatham-Kent better prepare for some of the weather-related challenges it’s facing including shoreline erosion and flooding. The person in the role with help with policy change directions for climate change initiatives. He adds that environmental sustainability is one of the key areas of strategic focus in CK’s Community Strategic Plan.

“It’s about moving towards meeting those goals and long term objectives,” said McAllister.

McAllister said most municipalities have similar roles within their staff.

While council debated about the position during budget deliberations on February 5, many of them were in support of bringing the role to Chatham-Kent, including Trevor Thompson who expressed how vital he felt it was for the municipality.

“This role will have an impact starting immediately. It will help with development, it will help improve the economy, it will help improve the economy,” said Thompson. “This is a very important role.”