The Houston Board of Aldermen discussed how city street department workers are chosen to be sent home on rainy days and if they could still get paid.
Ward 2 Alderman Shenia Jones made a motion to pay workers for day they were sent home because rain prevented them from working. Jones motion was initially seconded by Alderman At Large Barry Springer.
After discussion Springer rescinded his motion until the process for sending workers home in bad weather could be discussed with Houston Street Superintendent Ricko Nichols.
“These people have bills to pay and if we’ve told them we are going to pay them we need to do something for them,” said Jones. “I don’t understand how you can send some people home and let others work.”
Mayor Stacey Parker pointed out sometimes workers are retained to pull maintenance on city equipment.
“On rainy days if they are sitting on the clock, we do taxpayers an injustice to taxpayers not to send them home,” said Parker.
City Attorney Elizabeth Ausbern pointed out paying a city employee for not working might be deemed an illegal donation.
“I think if we make it clear to them we are not going to use you when it rains, that is the policy we need to set,” said Springer. “I withdraw my second, but if we don’t have a policy on who works and who doesn’t and why, this is something we need to look into.”
Nichols had already left last week’s board meeting when the issue came up.
Ward 3 Alderman Frank Thomas said employees at the business he works at are regularly sent home when it rains. Ward 2 Alderman Tony Uhiren also expressed concern for paying someone to sit at home.
The city has worked to streamline the street department and hire employees skilled in maintenance, waterwork and operating equipment. The city has bought equipment to dig and mow and does not require the labor it has used in the past.
Jones motion was then seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Willie May McKinney. The vote to pay workers on rainy days failed 3-2 with Uhiren, Thomas and Springer voting against it and Jones and McKinney voting for it.
Parker said he would look into drawing up a policy for the city and bring it back to the board.