Coldstream debates holiday staffing levels

The District of Coldstream was closed over the Christmas holiday but paid out $550 in overtime to handle snow clearing and repairing water lines. - Morning Star file photo
The District of Coldstream was closed over the Christmas holiday but paid out $550 in overtime to handle snow clearing and repairing water lines.
— image credit: Morning Star file photo

A decision to keep staff on the clock over Christmas in Coldstream could be revisited.

The public works department was closed during the recent Christmas break, which resulted in $550 in overtime wages paid to cover 18.5 hours of work.

The work, which included plowing, snow sanding and fixing water service leaks, took place during what would have been regular business hours (if the office had been open). There were actually more than 100 hours of staff time required during the break – the majority of which took place on weekend or statutory holiday time.

“Those 18.5 hours were now double time,” said Michael Stamhuis, Coldstream’s chief administrative officer.

“Had we staffed those days we would’ve had that paid out at regular pay.”

Considering that the amount was far lower than anticipated, one local politician believes the district could save taxpayers money by keeping the office open over the holidays.

“I think that $550 is still a substantial amount of money,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane.

“It definitely saves the district money if we keep the public works open.”

Following concerns raised before Christmas about overtime costs, council recommended that the public works department remain open for regular business days during the 2013 Christmas break (it has historically been closed during that time).

While Cochrane would like to see that recommendation remain, council may revisit the decision.

“They’ve opened the door to look at it,” said Stamhuis.

Meanwhile Coldstream’s mayor, Jim Garlick, says the decision has already been made to open the department next Christmas and he would prefer not to revisit the issue.

While there could possibly be some cost savings to the district to keep the department open, Stamhuis says there are a number of other factors to consider.

“It’s staff morale,” said Stamhuis, as the employees have historically received the time off. “The staff do other things too, on their own that they don’t necessarily charge for.

“Is the district better off if we close the office and accept some other benefit or should we keep it open and avoid those costs?”

A report looking back at the hours worked during the break over the last three years will be coming forward to council members, which could lead to further discussion and debate

“There’s not an easy answer,” said Stamhuis.


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