08/01/08 — New hours come Monday

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New hours come Monday

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 1, 2008 1:32 PM

With few exceptions Wayne County government offices will switch to a four-day work schedule next week with most offices being closed on Fridays.

Most of the offices on the new schedule will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will be closed on Fridays.

News-Argus/Greg Sousa

Most Wayne County government offices, including the Department of Social Services and Public Health, will switch to a four-day week starting on Monday. The offices will be closed on Fridays.

The four-day week does not apply to the county courthouse, administration building, Sheriff's Office and animal control.

The landfill and solid waste convenience sites will be closed on Wednesdays.

The landfill will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The solid waste convenience sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Other exceptions will be day reporting, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday and services on aging, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.

Meanwhile, Human Resources Director Sue Guy expressed surprise when informed that some county employees have told the News-Argus that they feared to publicly oppose the new schedule because it might cost them their jobs.

Nor, she said, has she heard that employees had been told to adjust to the schedule or find a new job.

"Oh, no, we want to hear their concerns," she said. "Maybe we can work around any. Certainly nobody's job is in jeopardy. Nobody in this office or the county manager's officer has told employees (to adjust or find a new job)."

She said the comments she had heard had been "overwhelming" in favor of the change.

Ms. Guy said work on the four-day week had begun in May and had been handled by a committee of county employees. She said it had been thought county employees would feel more at ease talking to fellow employees.

County commission Chairman Bud Gray agreed.

"I have not heard that," he said. "We knew there was some opposition, mostly from those with small children. I have heard from more who like it and are ready to go. I heard one yesterday (Wednesday) say, 'I want Fridays off.'"

He added, "I don't like changes either so I can sympathize. But it is not set in concrete. If it doesn't work or we don't save, we can go back to the old schedule."

Like Gray, Ms. Guy said child care had been the biggest concern raised.

However, she said department heads are authorized to work with employees to have a flexible schedule such as employees taking a 30-minute lunch so that they could leave work early to pick up children from day care.

Ms. Guy said a committee has been formed to explore the possibility of a county-operated day care.

County Manager Lee Smith has proposed that the county possibly contract with a private day care operator to manage a day care for the children of county employees. It would be located in a county-owned building.

The other concern came from the obstetric physicians whose patients are seen at the county health department.

Ms. Guy said data did not support the doctors' concern. She said only a few patients are seen on Fridays.

But if it proves to be a problem, the county could consider moving the maternity clinic to a smaller building. It is currently located in the county office building -- a building that Smith has called one of the least-energy efficient ones in the county.

It is hoped the four-day week will save the county up to 15 percent on its energy bill.

Ms. Guy said she has received telephone calls from 14 North Carolina counties about the process Wayne County went through to establish the new schedule. She also has received calls from Gainesville, Fla., and Halifax County, Va.

"They want to know how we laid it out and asked 'how do you think it will work,'" she said.

Wayne County is almost like a pilot for other counties to follow, she said.

Smith has said the new schedule should not lower the quality of service and that the longer day would offer working people a chance to conduct their business with the county before or after work.

"It is going to be inconvenient for some, but it is better than raising taxes," Gray said. "We are trying to keep taxes as low as possible."

Smith has said the county will need at least a year to determine the effectiveness of the new work schedule.