01/30/09 — To go four-day or not to go four-day?

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To go four-day or not to go four-day?

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 30, 2009 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Deputy Register of Deeds Tina Arnder assists Cameron Robinson and Tracy Boyette with their application for a marriage license Thursday.

Realtors and other professionals worried that plans to close the Wayne County Register of Deeds and tax offices on Fridays would further damage a real estate market already hammered by a struggling economy have a reprieve -- for now.

"I will not move forward at this time with moving these other departments to a four-day week," County Manager Lee Smith said Wednesday. "I am offering to them the option to flex, whereby they could change hours, but I am leaving that up to department managers.

"They still have to meet their workloads and it cannot impact our service ability to the customer. I don't expect any major changes in the next few months. We don't want to do anything to impact development and new tax base(s)."

Smith's decision came after a Monday afternoon meeting at his office with several local Realtors, as well as banking, construction and other professionals.

Members of that group also met later with the News-Argus to discuss their concerns about the pending schedule change.

Most county offices made the switch to the four-day workweek last August, and earlier this month Smith was poised to bring all of the county offices under that schedule.

Smith told commissioners at their Jan. 6 session he wanted to make the change effective the first of February, and asked for the board's consent to implement the change administratively.

He explained that his primary goal was to put all the county offices on a single schedule since there would be little savings in closing the two offices since the courthouse has to remain open anyway.

And commissioners appeared willing to allow Smith to proceed until Commissioner Steve Keen objected.

Keen, who attended both meetings with the concerned business owners, said he first wanted to see firm figures as to how much the four-day week has saved the county so far. He also reminded the board that when the original four-day schedule was implemented, the public was told it would be for a one-year trial period.

Smith said he was surprised by the level of opposition, but added that he appreciated the group coming forward with its concerns. He explained that he asked to meet with the group after learning of its plans to talk to the News-Argus.

"My personality is to hit things head on," he said. "I thought if there was a concern, and if I was the one going to have to make the decision or make a recommendation to the board, then I needed to hear what those concerns were."

Smith said he was pleased with the meeting and added he would ask for input again in the future before considering any other changes.

"We had a good meeting and exchanged some very good information. Their concerns were that in a tough economy by closing down we were going to reduce their ability to do business," he said. "What I saw the other day was a good beginning conversation with the county and local business folks. I appreciate them coming up and being honest with me and I hope they will appreciate my job we have to do here, too."