01/08/09 — County manager asks officials for four-day workweek expansion

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County manager asks officials for four-day workweek expansion

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 8, 2009 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Register of Deeds Lois Mooring talks with attorney Jack Edwards about research he was doing Wednesday afternoon at her office. County commissioners Tuesday discussed adding the office and the tax department to the four-day workweek schedule most county offices have been on since August. The decision was delayed after Commissioner Steve Keen said he wanted to see data on savings generated by the four-day schedule.

Wayne County Commissioner Steve Keen wants more than assurance that the county's four-day workweek is indeed saving money before agreeing to extend it to all county offices.

County Manager Lee Smith had suggested at commissioners' Tuesday meeting to make the schedule countywide effective Feb. 1 and commissioners appeared poised to allow him to proceed when Keen voiced his objections.

"To go countywide, I have an issue with that," Keen said. "I have just not seen any figures as to where the savings are."

Most county offices switched to the four-day schedule in August and are closed on Fridays. The landfill and convenience sites are closed on Wednesdays.

Smith had said he planned to ask commissioners to make the schedule countywide to include the Register of Deeds and tax office.

That proposal has prompted a letter of protest from Lynwood D. Williford Jr., president of the Goldsboro-Wayne County Association of Realtors.

He wrote that "many" local Realtors, attorneys and mortgage lenders were concerned such action would negatively impact real estate closings and related transactions.

Closing the offices on Friday would be a "hardship," he wrote.

"We believe the continuation of a traditional five-day workweek to be in the best interest of the citizens of Wayne County that utilize these services on a daily basis," Williford wrote.

Commissioners made reference to the letter during their meeting, but Smith and several commissioners said it was one of only a few comments they had received in opposition to the four-day schedule.

Smith said that if the closing would hinder people from doing business "in a large way then we don't need to do it."

He said there is somewhat of a morale issue involved since some 700 to 800 employees are off on Friday and the other employees want to know when they will be able to be off as well.

Smith broached the subject during a work session following the board's regular meeting when he told commissioners the program has saved the county about 12 percent on energy costs.

Smith said some people already think the Register of Deeds and tax offices are closed on Fridays.

"We have two sets of hours and it is confusing," Smith said.

Closing the two offices would not be a "large" savings since they are only two offices and the courthouse would have to remain open, he said.

Smith said the most savings would be at the Health Department and Department of Social Services where an entire building is shut down.

"Get to the point," Commissioner Jack Best joked.

"I would like to go four days countywide," Smith said.

"I think a lot of people out there want to see if it is working and I would like to show evidence to the people," Keen said.

Best said that the best time to make the change would be during the winter because activities are down.

"Give Steve the data," Best said.

"Give it to the people," Keen replied.

The evidence needs to be shown to the public, he said.

"Even without the data the people working the four-day week work more efficiently," Best said. "I think the attitude of the people is better."

Best said having the extra day off allows employees to spend more time with their families.

"I am for trying it," he said. "It might not work, but if not, you can go back. I believe winter is the best time to try it."

Commissioners J.D. Evans agreed and called the four-day week "a work in progress. You need additional time to make a better evaluation. The employees I have talked to are in favor of it."

Smith reminded commissioners that the initial four-day schedule was implemented by administrative, not board action.

"Is that OK with you?" Best asked Keen.

"No sir," Keen said.

"What do you want?" Best said.

Keen said a review of the county audit would be a good time to bring out the cost savings. Commissioners plan to discuss the audit during a retreat following their Feb. 3 board meeting during which time they expect to examine the county's finances heading into budget preparation.

Looking at the audit will allow commissioners to compare the past six months with the same period during the prior year and to see what the four-day workweek has saved in county departments.

"Bring it before us in the work session and come back to the board and talk about it as a whole," Keen said.

He added, "Shutting the county down for a day basically in the thought process of the public is that the county is open four days a week, even though they are 10-hour days."

Keen added that the four-day schedule has been in effect for only six months. When it was first proposed it was for a one-year trial period and that is what people are expecting before changes are made, he said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson was prepared to offer a motion to delay action to replace a motion he thought Best had made.

Best said he had only voiced his support without making a motion.