This past Christmas holiday season may well have been the last time that the South Dundas municipal office will be open between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
South Dundas council passed a resolution at the January 15 council meeting to close the office from noon on Christmas eve day, 2013 and re-open January 2, 2014 with regular hours.
The extra 2.5 days that the office is closed, staff will be off without pay unless they choose to use vacation time or banked hours.
Over the past couple of years, council has been adamant that the office be open for some time between the two holidays to allow ratepayers the opportunity to have access to staff to do things like pay taxes or get information. South Dundas has always ensured that the office stay open, albeit with a skeleton staff.
“We have to have some line of communication with the public. We have to be user friendly,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke.
“I would prefer we remain open,” said South Dundas councillor Evonne Delegarde.
“I realize that people have ample opportunities for information, and such, but people still like to be able to come in and see a face. I would like them to have the opportunity to come in,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan.
“I was always of the opinion that we should have someone here (between Christmas and New Year’s), but we have to make sure it’s worthwhile,” said South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds, who this past holiday made a point to spend a little time at the office.
“I was here, I saw the abuse that our staff member had to take, here on her own. It was incomprehensible,” said the Mayor, who suggested that they try closing the office for one year to see how it works out.
The majority of council agreed.
In 2012, between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays 33 people visited the municipal office in Williamsburg in person: 20 people were paying taxes, one was getting a building permit, two were getting burn permits and the remainder were dropping off invoices or needed information that could have been accessed on the township website, phone system, newsletter or in the local paper.
The staffer on duty handled 103 phone calls: 41 for road conditions and the remainder for information that again could have been accessed through other sources, such as the webite or newspaper.
South Glengarry is the only other municipality in SD&G that is open between the two holidays.