City council has fulfilled another of Mayor Mike Bradley’s election promises and will re-establish a customer service desk in the lobby at City Hall.
But the move won’t come cheap. An additional staff person must be hired at a cost of $83,500 a year, plus $8,500 for the desk, computer and phone.
And another $19,500 may be needed annually to cover absences from the kiosk for lunch breaks, sick time and vacations.
Bradley has argued a reception desk staffed by someone answering the phone and directing visitors sends a clear message about customer service at City Hall. He cast the pivotal vote in a 5-4 decision.
“The mayor campaigned on this and received overwhelming support. Our job is to listen to the people,” said Coun. Bill Dennis.
The previous council had removed the kiosk and shortened public hours as a cost-saving measure. Staff were reorganized and the phone system automated, though the public can still speak to an attendant by dialing zero.
Visitors currently go to the customer service centre, which is staff by a four-member team and located nearby on the first floor.
Other councillors called the decision a waste of money that leaves a city employee vulnerably exposed to public threats.
“This is an unnecessary expending of taxpayer money, workflow, and efficiency,” said Coun. Nathan Colquhoun.
“Since eliminating that (staff) position everything has gotten better… So we’re talking $100,000 a year to make things less efficient, less modern and less safe.”
Coun. Mike Stark called it a health and safety issue.
“The reality is, people who come to City Hall generally aren’t coming because they’re happy,” he said, noting most arrive to pay bills or lodge a complaint, and some are loud or even violent.
“My concern is that we stick an individual out in the middle of a lobby without any kind of protection,” he added, noting the backup is a bylaw enforcement office on the second floor.
Bradley, Dennis and councillors Margaret Bird, Dave Boushy and George Vandenberg voted to restore the kiosk.
Colquhoun, Stark and councillors Terry Burrell and Brian White were opposed.