BIDDEFORD — Those doing business at City Hall will be able to do so 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays following formal approval of the change in hours by the Biddeford City Council.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, hours were 8 to 5, p.m., with employees allowed one unpaid hour for lunch.

After City Hall reopened to the public in May 2020 after a 9-week shutdown, the hours were 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Employees worked 40-hour weeks, but had the flexibility to work 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a 30-minute unpaid lunch.

That flexibility will remain under the new plan. Councilors approved the change unanimously, but there were questions.

Councilor Stephen St. Cyr asked if there was data that showed how many people typically enter the building to do business between 4 and 5 p.m., but there was none available. The hours had been 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a year since the re-opening.

St. Cyr said some people would have to leave work early to go to City Hall to do business  before the 4 p.m. closing. He said more services should be offered online.

“I’d be more supportive if more of those options were available,” he said.

Councilor Michael Ready said the city offers “a lot” online but can look at offering more.

Council President John McCurry said he could more readily support the measure if it was a trial run.

Councilor Norman Belanger said there were no complaints about the hours on social media.

Belanger said the measure was supported by staff.

“There was a strong feeling it was important for morale and employee retention,” said Belanger. “Happy staff makes for happy constituents.”

A move to compensate each nonunion employee at a rate of $125 a month for the months they worked from February 2020 to July 2021, 18 months in all, was put on hold until the specific source of the city’s portion of the funding was identified, along with the amount of the total payout. Biddeford Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney said 80 percent of the personnel identified are eligible under the American Rescue Plan. The 20 percent identified as non-emergency personnel would be paid by the city.

The city’s portion of the funding is intended to come from carryover funds, but exactly where was unclear at the July 6 council meeting — something councilors wanted to know.

The extra compensation program is similar to one recently approved in the city’s contract with firefighters.

The matter was postponed until the next City Council meeting.

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