Staff at the Dr. Duncan Murray Recreation Centre felt some relief after a security company took over the entrance screening requirements related to the COVID-19 Restrictions Exemption Program (REP).
Due to several disruptive visitors to the rec centre who had an issue with the REP, which caused a temporary service interruption, the security company was implemented on Oct. 5, 2021.
Within the four weeks that followed, the company worked for 370 hours, screened 8,173 visitors, and reported zero issues. An average of four patrons per week without appropriate proof of the COVID-19 vaccine, a test result, or an exemption are denied access.
“Between Oct. 5 and Nov. 1 we have not had any incidents reported. That level of security for our building is not something that’s in the job descriptions of our staff to the level that was required and is still required,” said Laura Howarth, Hinton’s interim CAO.
From Oct. 5 to Nov. 1, the Town spent $15,068 on security services with $23,931 of allocated and approved funds remaining.
Coun. Stuart Taylor questioned when the town would wean itself off this service and expressed that he doesn’t want to spend $36,000 on security if they can avoid it.
Challenges with restrictions are still ongoing and there is a continued need to have security in place to support staff, stated Hans van Klaveren, Hinton’s arenas, parks, and culture manager.
He did note that with education there is ongoing improvement.
“We signed a one-month contract with an extension option and also to have variable hours as required,” Howarth said.
Some service hours have already been reduced during weekdays when less visitors are expected, she said. Administration will continue reducing security services as much as possible going forward.
The issue will come back to council on Dec. 16. If administration wants to extend the program beyond three months, they would need to come to council for funding, explained van Klaveren. The public continues to be educated regarding the REP and access protocols by the security staff, the customer service clerks, and management staff.
Maximum wait time was approximately 20 minutes in the first weekend and has reduced to 5 to 10 minutes during peak times.
Administration phased out single vaccination entry allowance, transitioning into a double vaccination check on Oct. 25, and introduced the use of the Alberta QR code screening.
Security is not necessary at other municipal buildings that have not implemented the REP for public access.
The municipal protective services department has ensured that entrance screening is being done at the Government Centre during public meetings of Council, at which time access was granted under the REP.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice