Frustrated residents want city halls to transition staff working online to public-facing areas faster

MORE and more residents are expressing their frustration at what they perceive to be a slow transition of staff in city halls (as well as provincial and federal government offices) from working online to public-facing areas.

There apparently is no uniform policy for the different municipalities in the Lower Mainland and that is evidently leading to confusion and frustration.

But Vancouver and Surrey city halls say they are doing their best while following COVID-19 rules of the provincial authorities.

This week, an angry caller to a Punjabi radio talk show demanded to know why Surrey City Hall was allowing residents to come to there for collecting property tax but keeping other services online. The suggestion was that the City wanted their money.

But Oliver Lum, Senior Manager, Communications and Media Relations, on Tuesday pointed to a link on the City’s website that clearly states: “Due to COVID-19, Surrey City Hall is only open by appointment, while the Surrey Operations Centre is temporarily closed to the public.

“We encourage you to reach out to us online or over the phone to get the information you need. Many services that are done at City Hall are fully available online. See our full list of online services.

“If you are unable to find the information you need online or by phone and still need to come to City Hall in person, please call the department you need at the numbers below to set up an appointment time.”

However, Lum added that if people still showed up without an appointment, the staff “would still accommodate them as long as we were able to do it within the COVID-19 rules.”

Regarding the property tax collection, he said: “Apparently for the property tax, people collected inside City Hall. [The staff] said they didn’t turn anyone away.”

Lum said: “We find a way to accommodate them, so it was like if they can stay in the marked lineup, they would and once the lineup was full there was a holding area until the next spot was available.”

Lum referred to the following link:

https://www.surrey.ca/about-surrey/coronavirus-covid-19-information

 

IN Vancouver, a media spokesperson, Gail Pickard, told The VOICE on Tuesday: “The doors of City Hall were opened to the public as of today, however, services such as paying taxes and other bills at City Hall have been available for some time during the pandemic – the public just needed to check in at the main entrance doors.”

She added: “Some other service desks will continue to operate on an appointment only or controlled entry basis, as we transition more staff from working online to working in public-facing areas. The public can refer to this web page for the most up-to-date information on facilities and services:  https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/coronavirus-whats-closed-affected-or-still-open.aspx

Perhaps, the Province should step in and try to see what can be done to expedite matters while keeping both staff and residents safe.

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