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Through the looking glass

Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato gamely poses for a photo last Friday afternoon. "Can you hear me okay?" she asked a visitor. "Just fine," he replied. VOICE PHOTO

Meant to protect staff, large window placed in Town Hall

BY VOICE STAFF

Citing security concerns, the Town has installed a glass barrier at the lower reception counter inside Pelham Town Hall. Installation was carried out over the weekend of January 18-19, catching councillors by surprise when they arrived for their scheduled council meetings last Monday, January 21.

Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Marc MacDonald confirmed that council was not informed of the plan, which was initiated under the previous council.

“The glass was installed on the recommendation of our health and safety committee to senior staff,” said MacDonald. “Over the years there have been incidents of abusive and intimidating behaviour from people coming into the building.”

Asked for a recent example of such behaviour, MacDonald declined to answer.

“Information about the incidents, including those involved or the details of the incident, is not something we would disclose.”

Reaction among councillors was generally favourable, with some disappointment that they weren’t kept in the loop.

“The most important thing is to ensure the safety of all the employees that work for the Town and it our responsibility to do so,” said Councillor Ron Kore. “As a councillor, I was not aware of the issues that staff and citizens were having at the Clerk’s counter. It’s imperative that the CAO communicate with Town councillors about issues that are important.”

Mayor Junkin drew a comparison with neighbouring, if considerably larger municipalities.

“At first I thought the glass barrier was overkill,” said Junkin. “Then I was at a meeting at Welland City Hall, and they have a full-time security guard sitting behind a desk. He informed me that at least once every two weeks they have to call the police to come to attend to a disturbance. He also said that St. Catharines Public Library has two full-time security guards. Obviously staff safety is the number one priority. So now I am resigned to the fact that this is how things are in today’s society.”

Councillor Mike Ciolfi echoed the concern for security.

“There have been issues in the past and this problem was brought up by the health and safety committee,” said Ciolfi. “Health and safety needs to be a top concern in any place—work, home, etc.”

Councillor Marianne Stewart was less convinced.

“I went to Pelham Town Hall to see the glass installation,” said Stewart. “From the perspective of keeping the draft out of the office it seems to help. As a member of the public, I don’t approve. I don’t believe we needed to ‘build a wall.’ There is a camera in place and has been for some years. I think there is far less of a risk factor than, for example, to bank tellers, convenience store clerks.”

Stewart said she didn’t receive an answer as to what specific incidents prompted the installation of the barrier.

Public Relations and Marketing Specialist MacDonald reported the project’s cost to be $3655, plus tax.

 

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