PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some state employees were paid overtime to go to work during what turned out to be a mostly dry workday on Wednesday, after the decision to close state offices triggered overtime pay for essential workers.
Gov. Gina Raimondo elected to close state offices due to predicted snow, telling all non-essential employees to stay home. The decision was made Tuesday night, when forecasts called for a possible messy evening commute. The morning commute was expected to be fine.
According to a Department of Administration memo sent to department heads and payroll officers, non-essential workers on the 8:30 am to 4:30 pm shift stayed home and were compensated like a typical workday. Essential workers who needed to work during the snow day were paid time and a half, and correctional officers were paid double time and a half, per the union contract.
While the costs of Wednesday’s snow day has not yet been calculated, Department of Administration spokesperson Brenna McCabe said the personnel overtime costs from a previous storm-related state office closure totaled $310,000. Some of those costs were part of the RIDOT winter storm budget, which includes labor costs.
The $19.3 million RIDOT budget still had $3 million remaining for the season before Wednesday’s storm, according to a spokesperson.
Raimondo defended the decision to close state offices despite some criticism, after snow did not begin to fall until the afternoon, leaving the roads wet but not snowy during the evening commute.
”Storms are expensive,” Raimondo said in a noontime news conference. “We prepare for it, we err on the side of safety. Storms bring with them expenses: salt, plows, trucks, etc. We’re prepared for it and we knew that when we made that decision.”
The state relies on forecasts from the National Weather Service and the State Meteorologist when deciding whether to close state offices.
”We make decisions based on the information we have at the moment we make the decision,” EMA Director Peter Gaynor said in an interview Wednesday. “These things can go either way in a minute, so in this case I think we erred on the side of public safety, which we always do. Sometimes it turns out exactly how you think it is, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that’s just weather in New England.”