It only took a short time Tuesday for Common Council to hold its final regular meeting of 2012, but time was a concern - overtime that is.
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak questioned Mayor Anthony J. Dolce about two instances when overtime was paid, starting with overtime paid during the weekend of Nov. 24 related to the season's first snowfall.
"It turns out when I questioned (DPW Director) Tony Gugino at the last council meeting I was under the impression that 14 hours of overtime was ... that amount for that weekend. Since that time the overtime reports have come out and it turns out there was closer to 56 hours in overtime that was actually incurred," she said.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak questioned Mayor Anthony J. Dolce about overtime costs during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.
"So as the mayor and manager of the day-to-day activities, Tony's department is under your supervision. How do you address this incident and how will snow events be handled in the future?"
Dolce said he was in agreement that the amount of salting done was not needed.
"I have spoken to them about the necessity. Let's make sure it's truly necessary going forward," he explained. "If one individual calls out, one individual from the public deems ... an intersection icy, is it truly icy and what are the standards? That's a process we're working through."
Kiyak also questioned overtime paid during a recent cleaning of City Hall's windows and blinds, in addition to the $1,400 paid to an outside contractor for the job.
"What I don't understand is with a fulltime custodian why there's almost 22 hours of overtime incurred to help wash and rehang those blinds," she said, "and why they couldn't have been done during the normal working hours of his shift?"
Dolce said he would address the issue with Gugino.
Overtime was also a concern when Dolce announced the city's recycling pickup will change to an every-other-week operation, beginning Dec. 31.
"Obviously, that will be a big one after Christmas and then we will start again Jan. 14. What this does by starting on Jan. 14 and going every other week from there, it avoids any Monday holiday," he explained. "We will not run into a situation where it will double up and you could potentially go a month. That will not happen."
Dolce said the schedule will be subject to change in 2014.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if there will be overtime incurred with two trips to Westfield on pickup days. Dolce replied that he will send a memo stating any overtime will just go to the drivers.
After the meeting Kiyak was asked what she sees as the main cause of the overtime; a lack of supervision or it's just the way things are done. She said overtime is the mayor's responsibility.
"The council oversees and when we have concerns we bring it to his attention, and at this point because Tony Gugino wasn't here I asked AJ, as the supervisor of all the departments, if these particular instances were cases where there was an excessive amount of overtime for the particular events," she added. "As I read in the statement, I felt that close to 56 hours of overtime for what was barely an inch of snow on the ground seemed excessive. I also was curious why we had to spend overtime when there was fulltime custodial service available to take his time and do it within his shift. In order to address these things council needs to bring it to the mayor's attention as it is our task to do."
After the meeting Dolce said the weekly overtime reports are reviewed but it was an ongoing process. He added he was concerned about liability with salting issues but said the November effort was bothersome.
"I just spoke to our city attorney. There's a lot of concern about liability if you weren't to respond. So I have him looking into that to see what is the true liability there," he added. "Is it one person making a phone call? Does that justify, now we need to go out and salt all the streets?
"I think we need to be more selective when it comes to salting. Not only is salt expensive, but the hours that go with it. It's just one of those things that we're going to continue to look at."
Dolce was asked if the City Hall blinds could have been done a little at a time.
"That's a valid concern. I'll talk to Tony (Gugino) about that," he replied. "I know one thing that was mentioned at the time was they want to do it when no one's around and save interfering with people during the normal work day."
Dolce said he was told the blinds hadn't been done in eight years so he gave the OK.
"I can tell you it's not something we will be doing again anytime soon," he stated. "It's something I'll speak to him about, but I can assure the public we won't be having our blinds cleaned any time soon."
Send comments on this story to email@example.com