The spirit of giving is sticking around in Coldstream this holiday season. But local politicians may pull back the reins for next Christmas.
Following a debate over whether to keep the public works department open over the holiday season, it was agreed that it should remain closed this year. But public works staff may be required to work during the 2013 holiday season.
Historically, the department, along with the municipal office, has been closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but that caused some councillors to reconsider due to the fact that public works staff may be needed to be called in to plow snow, attend water main breaks or sewer disruptions – which would lead to paying employees double time for their service.
“I have a real problem with giving someone a day off and turning around and paying them double time to call them back in,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane.
While the office and department will be closed for 11 days, between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1, the majority of those days are statutory holidays or weekend days.
That leaves only four weekdays to possibly keep staff on hand.
“We are fighting about four days,” said Coun. Richard Enns, adding that council would be “penny-wise and pound-foolish” to make staff work those four days.
Many public works staff have already booked their holidays and made plans for their time off (which is time they are owed).
“Holidays have been granted and I think it’s going to create a considerable hardship,” said Mike Pethick, operations superintendant.
Therefore council agreed to keep the department closed this year, but possibly open the office for the 2013 Christmas break (which would be three weekdays between Christmas and New Year’s).
Councillors Gyula Kiss and Maria Besso are against possibly stripping some staff of time off next Christmas season.
Along with coming in on weekends and late nights to plow snow, public works staff are on hand for other emergency services such as water main breaks (such an instance recently had staff working round the clock to remedy the situation). Staff also provide a number of extra services,such as volunteering at the recent Remembrance Day service.
“They should be able to expect something from us in return,” said Kiss.
Pethick adds: “I view these four days…as a little bit of a trade-off to these individuals that commit a considerable amount of their time to the district.”
It was also noted that whether the department is closed or not, there will be staff on call to serve the community if needed.
“Senior staff have ensured that we are in a position to be looked after during this period of time,” said Michael Stamhuis, chief administrative officer.