Updated 12/14/11 – 6:14 p.m.

DYER, Ind. (CBS) — The Northwest Indiana town of Dyer is holding a Holiday Appreciation Party for its town employees Friday – giving them half a day off with pay so they can attend.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, that’s not sitting well with everyone.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports


All of Dyer’s 86 full-time employees and 63 part-time workers have been invited to attend. They’ll be paid half a day’s wages on Friday.

The vote to have the holiday party during working hours instead of the evening was 3 to 2 – a close vote in the Dyer town council.

Among those against it was Town President Debbie Astor.

Robert Starkey, vice president of the Dyer Stormwater Board, also spoke out against the plan.

“They’re taking a half-day off. They’re paid for it. They’re going to the local steakhouse, eating their meals and they’re drinking. Everybody raises an eyebrow and thinks, ‘Well, should they be doing that on town time?'” he said.

Starkey said taxpayers are essentially being asked to pay for town employees not to work.

“In light of whatever financial hardships towns and municipalities are facing, a Christmas party on town time during the day, taking away from productivity, was that the best use of taxpayer dollars?” Starkey said.

The party’s been held for several years, during regular business hours. But some Dyer residents were surprised to learn workers will party on their dime.

“You shouldn’t do that. That’s wrong. Tou don’t do that with other people’s money, period,” Dyer resident Sunni Zachocki said.

Dyer resident Michael Galanis said, “I don’t believe they should be using taxpayer time to celebrate or to have a party, especially in these economic times.”

But several said the party didn’t bother them.

Dyer resident Ray Homcho said, “I say sure, let them have their little party, you know, let them enjoy the season.”

Starkey insists he is no Grinch.

“Furthest thing from it,” he said. “Not trying to be a Grinch at all but you just want to make sure you’re doing the right things for the right reasons.”

Dyer town council members weren’t terribly anxious to discuss the party. The only one who returned calls for comment was Jeff Dekker, who voted for the party. He explained it’s intended as a “thank you” for town workers, who haven’t had a pay raise in four years, due to budget constraints.

The holiday party is set for Dec. 16 at noon at the Texas Roadhouse in Dyer. Employees will dine on half slabs of ribs, 8-ounce choice sirloin steak, grilled chicken, pulled pork dinners, and country fried chicken, along with appetizers and bar services.

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