by Terry Rogers
The City of Milford has announced that their offices will be closed to the public throughout the month of January.
“We closed buildings to the public for two reasons,” Mark Whitfield, City Manager, said. “We have a significant outbreak of COVID with staff coupled with the COVID surge community wide. It made sense to close down for at least a month until the surge starts to diminish.”
At a recent City Council meeting, Lou Vitola, Finance Director, explained the difficulties faced in Customer Service and other departments due to being short staffed and dealing with COVID quarantines.
“We’re doing very well in terms of the recruitment and filling a number of vacancies that we’ve had throughout the fall,” Vitola said. “The good news is, we have our last electric lineman scheduled to start, I believe February 3, and that will give us a full staff in the electric department other than the electric superintendent position which remains open. We have been hit with COVID. A number of employees are out, either who have been exposed or who actually have COVID.”
According to Vitola, there are about 14 employees in the Customer Service, Public Works and Police Department.
“To provide our normal level of services is not there. And a lot of it has to do with the number of vacancies,” Vitola said. “While I’m thrilled to have those last two hires in Customer Service, it doesn’t take away the fact that we’ve had some really, really tough times for the end of November and through December.”
Vitola explained that there are only eight full-time positions in Customer Service and, of those eight, two were open.
“We had two non-COVID illnesses and three COVID cases,” Vitola said. “We have a retiree who helps on a temporary basis and the temp was on vacation. If you added that up, that’s seven. At times we only had one person in the office or working remotely. So, you know, we’re appreciative of everyone’s patience as we get through some things.”
According to Vitola, one day, only Suzannah Frederick, Cash Operations and Revenue Supervisor was in the office.
“She took 169 phone calls, missed 30, listened to all the messages and then the mailbox was full the next day,” Vitola said. “So, it’s been tough, tough months in Customer Service. But I appreciate everyone hanging in and I’m really looking forward to everyone getting healthy and being fully staffed. So good things on the horizon.”
Councilman Andy Fulton asked if people who were out due to COVID were charged sick time or if they were covered another way. Whitfield said that staff was currently required to use sick time or personal time.
“We will reevaluate at the end of the month and make decisions on extending closures on a month-to-month basis,” Whitfield said.
Customers can call all departments with the city and utility bills can still be dropped in the boxes located at City Hall and the Customer Service building.
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