By a narrow vote of four to three, Sackville council has approved the installation of a $7,800 glass and metal barrier around the front desk at the new town hall.
Councillors Ron Aiken, Bill Evans and Megan Mitton voted for the security barrier while Andrew Black, Allison Butcher and Bruce Phinney voted against it. Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neil broke the tie with her vote in favour.
Mayor John Higham and Councillor Michael Tower were absent from Monday’s meeting.
“There has been some serious times here that our staff have really felt threatened and Lord forbid anything would ever happen to them,” O’Neil said in explaining her tie-breaking vote. “I know it’s a lot of money but I still feel I have to for the safety of the staff, I have to vote in favour of it.”
Councillor Black said he had received an e-mail from one constituent and heard from others opposing the barrier. He added that the front desk area has been a welcoming space where people can come to talk and even air their grievances.
“I think that it’s somewhat of a waste of money as well,” Black said. “If you look at banks in town and other places that have an open counter for people to talk to, yes there are those moments where you have to deal with irate customers or problematic issues, but it would take somebody pretty strong to come in and try to do anything at the front counter when there’s an RCMP office in the basement,” he added.
Staff feel unsafe
Treasurer Michael Beal said there have been times when front counter staff did not feel safe and the RCMP had recommended installing security windows similar to the ones the police themselves have in their detachment downstairs.
Beal explained that staff will be able to open the barrier in two ways. One glass slider will allow them to accept packages.
“The second one will raise up and will be eye-level, face-level with the customer,” he said, “but in the event that they do not feel safe or there’s an issue, they can still communicate through a voice amplifier that’s in another window.”
The Nova Scotia firm that will be installing the barrier will also add $2,500 worth of six-millimetre-thick glass to prevent sound from leaking out of CAO Phil Handrahan’s office into a hallway.
With the 15 per cent HST added, the total bill for enhanced security will come to $11,845.
Councillor Evans said he supported the front desk barrier for one compelling reason.
“A staff member can regularly find herself alone [at town hall] whereas in a bank or other institution, there are lots of other people around.”