Councilman questions city holiday pay

Just seconds from being approved, an ordinance on Columbia City employee wages, benefits, holidays and vacations reached a snag — the dug-in heels of Councilman Walt Crowder.The ordinance established new wage ranges for all city employees, with standard hourly rates for each position or job and a range of bottom to top, depending on seniority.But it was one item on the final page regarding benefits, that created a lift in Crowder’s eyebrow.“For 11 years (Crowder’s tenure on the council) this has been a topic and for 11 years I’ve questioned it,” said Crowder, regarding a policy designed for holiday pay in three of the city’s departments.A motion had already been presented and was seconded to pass the ordinance. It was just prior to the passing that Crowder voiced his objection. Both the current holiday pay policy and the proposed new policy provide for holiday pay for employees in the fire, police and dispatch/communications departments.These three entities maintain crews during all holidays due to the nature of their jobs.Under the current system, a holiday stipend of $1,100 is paid for each employee in these departments, covering all 15 city holidays.All other departments in the city pay their employees double-time on holidays, if they work that day.Crowder’s problem? — Paying an employee for a holiday if that employee would have been scheduled to work anyway.“I do struggle with paying people holiday pay when it’s their regular scheduled work day,” Crowder said at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Columbia City Common Council.Under the new proposal, workers in those three departments will receive $20 per hour on top of their regular hourly wage, only if they work the holiday.For Crowder, his beef is giving extra money to an employee who would have been to work on that day anyway. For example, if Christmas fell on a Wednesday and a city police officer had Wednesday as part of his or her regular schedule, Crowder said he felt the extra money was an unnecessary benefit.The initial motion and second Tuesday night was for approval of the ordinance on its second reading.After Crowder’s objections, the motion was amended and re-issued as a motion to hear the second reading and schedule a third reading for the next council meeting.“I want to give the public a chance to think about the issue,” Crowder said.