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Here for our Community — Mike Fraser

May 18, 2022
Here for our community: Matt Reid Every day hundreds of people work behind the scenes to keep Prince Edward County running. We are profiling a few of the people that are ‘here for our community.’   We continue the series by talking with Matt Reid, Foreman of Recreation and Community Facilities   Can you start by giving an overview of your job?   There really isn’t a set day. It could be anything. On any given day there could be something in the parks that needs taking care of, it could be that something breaks and we need to fix it. We keep busy and it stays interesting. On a typical day in the winter, we’re working with ice users and making sure the arenas run. I lend a hand at the Picton arena when they need it but I’m mostly based out of Wellington.   In the spring we take the ice out of the arena. It’s pretty straightforward: we shave the ice down with the ice resurfacer and then we’ve got to put hot water on to remove the vinyl logos. Then we continue shaving it down. When we get down to the paint, we turn the ice plant off to break the seal between the ice and the floor. Then we bring in a tractor with a bucket and start taking the ice out in chunks. It takes anywhere between 4-5 days with a crew of 2-3 staff.   In the summer, there’s more ground to cover. We’re focused on the parks and washrooms and all of that fun stuff. There are 23 parks that we look after, so we’re all over the County, and our team grows with summer students and summer staff. The team that is responsible for the public washrooms are fantastic. I’ve done that shift a couple of times and it’s fantastic that they are able to keep up with it.   How long have you worked with the County? I started in 2008 as an arena attendant. It was a good job opportunity at the time and it stuck with me. I have been in the Foreman role for just over a year now. What do you like most about the job and working for the County? The thing I like most about my job is the staff I work with. It’s a good group and it makes it easy to come to work. There are 12 people on the arena team; that’s between both facilities in Wellington and Picton. I don’t know the right word to describe the team. It’s just that everyone gets along so well. Everybody’s easy going, and it makes it a lot easier to come to work everyday knowing that we get to do our job and have a good time doing it together. I was a little uncomfortable about this interview, because it’s a team effort here. Nobody could make this work without everyone else. I didn’t want this to focus on me, because it really is a team. How has COVID-19 impacted your work? It has made things a little more challenging, but everyone has done a good job with getting the protocols sorted out. We have appreciated everyone’s patience and understanding as we worked through the challenges of the pandemic. The screening, showing proof of vaccination and ID, the guidelines we have to follow and the delays on repairs due to shortages, contractor availability and shipping delays… it’s made things a little more challenging. The public has been really good, more than willing to follow the rules and be patient and understanding. Having the facility empty during lockdowns has been a little bit of a blessing because when we’re closed we get the time to do the really tedious and long jobs that we don’t get a chance to do when we have a full day of ice users and the public coming in and out. There’s been a lot of painting, buffing floors and things like that. We haven’t been sitting waiting for the doors to open. We’ve been doing a lot of things we can’t do with the public coming through the door. What do you enjoy most about the County? I grew up in the County. I like that this is where my family’s from, where my wife’s family is from. Everyone we know is here. It really feels like a community when you grew up here and know everyone. It is easier at work because I see a lot of ice users who either know me or know my family.      

Here for our Community….

Every day hundreds of people work behind the scenes to keep Prince Edward County running. We are profiling a few of the people that are ‘here for our community.’ We continue the series by talking with Mike Fraser, Health, Safety and Wellness Coordinator.

How long have you worked with the County?

I have been in this position – as Health, Safety and Wellness Coordinator – since September 2021, but I worked for almost five years prior to this with The County as a Supervisor in the Operations Department.  I left for a short time to work with another municipality, just to try a different opportunity, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to return to The County in a position that I’m really enjoying and with a really great team.

We can’t talk about your job as Health, Safety and Wellness Coordinator without talking about the pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

Since I returned, so much of my job has been COVID-related. It was evident even before my return that the municipality was committed to balancing operational and service delivery with ensuring the health, safety and well-being of employees and the public. You’ve heard the word “pivot” a lot throughout the pandemic and since day one, I think the municipality as an entire organization has pivoted really well.

Mike smiles for the camera in a pale blue shirt in front of the door of his workplace.
"You've heard the word "pivot" a lot throughout the pandemic and since day one, I think the municipality as an entire organization has pivoted really well."

Due to the type of work they do, many employees didn’t have the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic – our operations department, roads crews, water and wastewater – all of these essential services had to continue. As an organization, we really prioritized health and safety for our staff and the public. We had safeguards in place, and although some of those protocols could be seen as somewhat inconvenient, we were always looking for that balance between staying operational and serving our public in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible.

We’re no different than any other municipality or other large organization. We’ve had positive cases among our staff, but it’s about how you navigate through it. We’ve been really fortunate. We have employees who are very engaged and on board with working to our safety plan and our local public health unit has been a strong resource and very supportive through the whole process.

Although we’re now becoming more comfortable living with and managing COVID-19, it is still very much a big part of the job.

What is a typical day for you?

 

I’d say about 60 per cent of my work is COVID-related right now. I get calls daily from staff to help them navigate what to do if their family member has tested positive, or if they have themselves. We complete all of our contact tracing on our own when we have a positive case, determining the level of risk and how to manage that. I provide tracking information to senior management and our team administers and manages our Rapid Antigen Testing program.

I also review the risk assessments for our buildings and look at the layers of safeguards that need to be in place. I don’t pretend to be a medical expert. I try my best to be a real resource for all of our employees. I’m definitely not a doctor, but I have been called that a few times. Some colleagues call me “Dr. Mike,” which is funny.

As we continue to move to different phases of the pandemic, I’m looking forward to getting back to my original job description and a large part of that is providing direct support for health, safety, wellness programs for all departments.

"I try my best to be a real resource for all of our employees. I'm definitely not a doctor, but I have been called that a few times. Some colleagues call me "Dr. Mike," which is funny."

What do you like most about working for The County?

For me, it’s the people. Hands down. There are really good people at the municipality doing great things. I’m part of an amazing team. It’s not easy doing municipal work. I really have an appreciation for what our employees do, especially the roads and water and wastewater staff. Just seeing what they do, how they react in a snowstorm or emergency situation is really impressive.

In terms of the role, I think I really enjoy being a resource. I am very team oriented. In my previous time as a supervisor and in management, I’ve always been involved in health and safety in one way or another. And this is the first time I’ve been more in a resource role and I have really been enjoying it.

What do you like most about Prince Edward County?

I’m from Belleville and while I don’t live in The County, I have always had a strong appreciation for this special place. I spent parts of summers on West Lake from when I was four months old until I was 18 or 19. My wife and I really enjoy the great restaurants here and are very appreciative of what is just over the bridge. The County is a great community and we’re lucky to have it close by.

 

Read all of the Here for our Community series

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