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Council objects to time off for donors

October 04, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Amid a philosophical debate about public service, the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday scrutinized plans for city employees to donate time and money to community causes.

Some council members didn't want the city to give employees paid time off for donating money to the United Way or doing community service work.

The city is trying to increase its United Way donation from about $9,000 last year to $20,000 this year.

Last month, the council criticized a plan to give employees who donate $65 or more at least four paid hours off. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said then that the city essentially would be making the donation.

Under a new proposal, the city would give paid time off as a prize to no more than four employees, but council members still objected.

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"If you're going to give, you give," Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said.

"You give from the heart," Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said. "You don't give because you receive."

Council members didn't mind the city offering other prizes, such as gift certificates.

To get more donations, "there's going to have to be some incentive to give more," said Information Technology Manager Scott Nicewarner, part of the city's United Way committee.

City employees also plan to do more for United Way's annual Day of Caring, when people do fix-up projects for groups that need help.

Mike Spiker, Hagerstown's director of utilities, said more than 40 employees signed up to work Oct. 11, this year's Day of Caring.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh objected to employees missing work. She said people should volunteer on their own time, like on weekends.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman called Day of Caring "a nice community partnership," a way for the city to give back time that outside volunteers give to city events.

But Cromer called that an "apples and oranges" comparison.

"You're not a volunteer if you're getting paid," she said.

Asked by Cromer if the city would have 40 employees volunteering on a Saturday, Spiker said, "I would be very surprised if we did."

The city's United Way committee was directed to pare its volunteer list to salaried employees, rather than hourly employees.

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