By Mary Thurwachter

The holidays became a bit merrier for general employees of the town of Lantana in December after the Town Council voted to gift them one-time bonuses of up to $2,000 and 1.5% salary increases.
The bonuses and salary increases are in addition to the 2.6% cost-of-living raises and merit raises up to 5% that were approved and applied on Oct. 1.
Finance Director Stephen Kaplan said the money was given to recognize and compensate employees “who performed under exceptional or stressful circumstances” through the pandemic and who “continue to excel despite the ongoing challenges presented during fiscal year 2021 and beyond.”
Police Department employees received similar perks in October, the result of a collective bargaining agreement. Mayor Robert Hagerty, a former commander with the Police Department, requested the staff bring back a similar plan for general employees. Kaplan said the exact amounts depended on how long employees worked for the town, whether they had decent evaluations, and the number of hours they worked.
“This is long overdue; our employees work hard for us every day,” said Hagerty, who, along with Vice Mayor Malcolm Balfour, attended the Dec. 13 meeting by phone.
Costs for the one-time payment and 1.5% salary adjustment are about $110,000 and $55,000, respectively.
Kaplan said that since these costs were not considered in the 2021-2022 original budget, funding will be provided at the midyear budget amendment in April. “At that time, either excess revenues or reserve funds will be utilized, providing the offsetting funding source,” he said.
In another matter, the council voted 3-2 to change the council meeting start times from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting with the first meeting in January.
Town Clerk Kathleen Dominguez said staff requested the time change to make more efficient use of everyone’s time.
“It also decreases the block of time that citizens and employees have to wait for the meeting to start after finishing their workday, which is generally about 5 p.m.,” she said.
Media Beverly, longtime council-watcher and a candidate in the March election, said she polled residents on their preference for starting time and they wanted to keep it at 7 p.m.
“I’m retired and can come anytime but those who work need a little time between work and meetings,” she said.
Vice Mayor Pro Tem Karen Lythgoe said she had talked to residents who all seemed to prefer starting meetings earlier.
Beverly suggested compromising with a start time of 6:30 p.m., but that suggestion failed to gain traction.
Hagerty, Lythgoe and Lynn Moorhouse voted in favor of the time change. Mark Zeitler and Balfour dissented.
In other action, the town:
• Voted to add former council member Ed Shropshire as an alternate member of the planning commission. Shropshire, who is a candidate for council in the March election, received votes from Hagerty, Moorhouse and Lythgoe. Zeitler and Balfour supported the other applicant, Patricia Towle, a real estate agent who lives on Hypoluxo Island.
• Honored Detective Brian Gibson as the Police Department’s Officer of the Quarter. Gibson was recognized for his extensive investigation of online child exploitation.

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