Council debates hours of operation at City Hall

At the Aug. 22 Committee of the Whole meeting, Council was presented with a staff report proposing to change the hours at City Hall.

At the Aug. 22 Committee of the Whole meeting, Fernie City Council was presented with a staff report from Director of Financial Services, Carla Fox. The report proposed changing the business hours of operation at City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a permanent basis. Currently, City Hall is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the rest of the calendar year.

“We did a little bit of an investigation over a two-month period of time as to the traffic coming into the main office between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the afternoon. What we found is that on average it is about two or three per week. Sometimes it was one,” said Fox. “What we are looking for is a recommendation from City Council that our hours of operation remain 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. year round.”

Fox pointed to the fact that the change would have no budgetary impact, as front desk staff would still be required to work an eight hour day, with a one-hour lunch break.

Councillor Ange Qualizza supported the recommendation and made the motion to have it brought to the evening’s council meeting for a final vote. The motion was seconded by Councillor Dennis Schafer and passed unopposed.

Council did further the discussion on the issue. Councillor Dan McSkimming asked if there was a way to extend the hours at times of need, such as the month of June before property taxes are due and Mayor Mary Giuliano expressed her reservations about the proposed changes.

“I’m not against this, however, I do know there would be some people, some of the older residents, that will probably find this something that they are not going to be happy with and I’m wondering if we could do this as a trial,” she said.

Giuliano noted the summer hours do act as a trial basis, but she said she would like to receive feedback from the public before making the change permanent.

“I would just like to consider the public first every time because, as I said, I do hear strongly from the residents that were born and raised in Fernie. Aside from our summer hours, it has always been this way in Fernie,” she said. “When you make changes, even if there is only three people using that service, those three people or others could be upset over the changes.”

Councillor Phil Iddon voiced his concern saying the City of Fernie is a service business and should serve the people of Fernie to the best of their ability.

“We should be accessible at all times to our constituents and this isn’t really changing anybody’s amount of work,” he said. “To me, we should be open and accessible to people. It may only be very few people that need the service, but the fact that it is available at no extra cost to us is a big thing.”

The motion was brought forward to the evening’s meeting. Council voted in favour of a trial basis from September until the end of December for the reduced hours of operation. Only Councillor Iddon was in opposition to the motion.