County weighs holiday workweek plan
By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 17, 2008 1:46 PM
Wayne County government's four-day workweek has forced the county to juggle days for its upcoming holiday schedule.
That juggling means county offices will be closed Nov. 27 and 28 for Thanksgiving and Dec. 22-26 for Christmas.
With about 70 percent of county employees already off on Fridays, the county ran into the problem of what to do about holidays that fall on that day.
"Thanksgiving the county offices are closed on Thursday and Friday," said County Manager Lee Smith. "Well, Friday, for 70 percent of my employees, is a day off so that means they are missing, on the state schedule, a holiday.
"I looked at Christmas when we were going to be closed three days, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Well, Friday is a day off for 70 percent of the employees."
The simplest solution, Smith said, instead of having some employees off and then giving them another day off, was to make Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks mandatory four-day workweeks for all employees.
Exceptions to that are shift workers such as telecommunicators and paramedics.
Also, a few Health Department and Department of Social Services employees might be on call. A few, he said, might have to pull office hours for maternity and obstetrics patients. DSS and Health Department officials are hammering out those schedules, Smith said.
Those employees probably will be given hours off the following week, Smith said.
To make the schedules work, the Thanksgiving Friday holiday was shifted to Christmas week.
"That only left one day, that Monday," Smith said. "That Friday (after Christmas) we were off (for the four-day week) so I moved it to Monday. ...
"I think for the most part that it will work. We have found around the courthouse that for a lot of businesses, that is a week people take off."
In the courthouse, the courts will be shut down Wednesday through Friday for Christmas because of state holidays, he said, leaving only two days in question, that Monday and Tuesday.
"I am trying to give all my employees days off," he said. "I did not want to treat employees differently as far as holidays. As I get into January with the new board, I want to discuss the 2009 schedule because when you start treating employees differently as far as holidays, it is hard to keep up with when you have 800 to 1,000 people. How are you going to keep up with that?"
County buildings will be shut down entirely for that nine-day period for Christmas.
"There will be energy efficiencies there, but also a time period for a few maintenance projects we are hoping our contractors will come in and work on early that week while some of our buildings are shut down," Smith said. "From a private industry standpoint, this is very common."
Some businesses shut down during the weeks of the Fourth of July, Christmas or New Year's Day for various reasons, he said.
"Usually they close because production is low, or to rework or do cleanup," Smith said. "We are kind of doing the same thing."
Along with looking at the holiday schedule after the first of the year, Smith also expects to talk with commissioners about possibly expanding the scope of offices operating under the four-day schedule.
"A number of counties are looking to do that (go to four-day weeks)," he said. "We were probably more of a maverick as far as looking at what our options were and potential savings were because it is somewhat of a guess when you first start this.
"People are really taking a look at fuel use and looking at energy costs and those kinds of things and even with fuel costs coming down, it's still the right thing to do because we all know that it will go back up. I still have not received complaints from the general public about service hours."
Smith said he had checked with the tax office and register of deeds office and that it appears the week of Christmas is "very, very slow." The following week is very busy, however, he said.
"In January, I will make a presentation concerning tax office and register of deeds data as far as activity on Friday being extraordinarily low," he said. "For the most part, the courthouse parking lot is deserted on Friday. I will talk to commissioners to see what their wishes are."
The holiday schedule is posted on the county Web site at www.waynegov.com. For more information, call Smith's office at 731-1435.
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