SHIRLEY -- Selectmen Monday night voted unanimously to close town offices on the day after Thanksgiving, as well as the holiday itself, and to give that added four hours off to employees whose departments fall under their jurisdiction.
Known in the retail world as Black Friday, none of the three board members believed there would be much town hall business that day and per a recently set policy, the building is open half a day on Friday anyway.
But the issue sparked discussion.
To begin with, Selectman David Swain said Nov. 23 had historically been a paid holiday for town hall employees, at least since 2004, but that practice "came to a halt" when the decision was made to shut down the building on Fridays to save energy costs.
Now that the building is again open for half a day on Fridays, the question became what to do about the traditional day after Thanksgiving day off? Should it be restored as a bonus holiday or should employees simply be allowed to take the day off, using vacation or personal time?
Chairman Andy Deveau favored the former, calling it a "small thing" to pay a handful of employees for a half day so they could be with their families that day. Salaried employees are not affected, he pointed out.
But Swain argued for the latter option, noting that other town halls and most businesses would be open that day.
Then Selectman Kendra Dumont tapped into the root cause of dissent. "We still don't have a complete schedule of office hours" for departments under the board's jurisdiction, she said.
Swain faulted Chief Administrative Officer David Berry for that. "The CAO has failed to provide us with the list" requested of him as far back as August, he said. "I still have no idea who's working on Friday."
Administrative Assistant Kathi Rocco said a list of office hours is posted. She asked Swain what, specifically, he needed to know now.
"Who's physically here," he answered, positing that it shouldn't be too much trouble for Berry to leave his corner office and make the rounds on a given Friday. In Swain's view, that's what the CAO indicated he would do in a previous email that simply gave posted hours and seemingly promised follow-up.
Deveau said withholding a holiday for that reason seemed punitive to him.
"You're missing the point," Swain said.
But Treasurer Kevin Johnston said he could provide some of the needed information on the spot. The Finance Department offices are open and staffed for a half day on Friday, as is the Building Inspector's office, he said. Rocco had previously stated the same for the selectmen's office.
In that case, "I will change change my opinion" to authorize Friday, Nov. 23, as a paid holiday on which the town offices building will be closed.