Now former city manager Ken Watson's switch to a newly-created major projects advisor role will aid the city in its major 2016 infrastructure initiatives—and prepare him for retirement, said Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan. Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley will act city manager until a replacement is hired.
"He will be an employee of the city until Dec. 31," said Ruttan. "He's getting close to retirement and it's a mutual decision."
Watson has served at the city for over a quarter-century, first as city engineer and then as city manager. In his new role, Ruttan said that Watson will help the city reduce its reliance on consultants as it takes on three major projects.
"He's moving into a senior advisory role as well as helping with a series of projects we have on the go," Ruttan said. "He will be able to provide that advice perhaps in lieu of consultants that we may otherwise hired.
Those projects include the city's switch over to the former Catalyst sewage lagoon, the Coal Creek outfall and a proposed partnership between the city and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to use Sproat Lake as a backup drinking water reservoir for the city.
Using Sproat Lake as backup water source has been considered before. In a 2010 Alberni Valley Regional Water Study Update commissioned by the ACRD, Sproat Lake was selected as the "preferred regional water supply system, on the basis of obtaining a filtration deferral for both sources."
Ruttan said that the use of Sproat Lake water would help the city—and perhaps the whole Alberni Valley—in the future.
"It ultimately could become the water supply for the entire Valley and as we move further and further down the road of climate change, Sproat Lake water may become increasingly more important."
As far as changes to city management go, Ruttan said that while Watson's change of position is only "indirectly" related to the yet-to-be released Judy Rogers management review, more changes will come quickly. The city previously changed Theresa Kingston's position from director of corporate services to director of community services and moved the information technology department to be under the wing of the finance department.
"The changes are just starting," Ruttan said.