02/01/09 — Commission agrees with decisions on 4-day week

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Commission agrees with decisions on 4-day week

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 1, 2009 2:00 AM

Most of Wayne County's commissioners are voicing their support for the four-day workweek that was implemented last summer, but they also agree with County Manager Lee Smith's decision to delay expanding that schedule to include the tax and Register of Deeds offices.

Additionally, commissioners agree that the policy should be revisited after one year to determine its effectiveness.

Smith made the decision to not include the tax and Register of Deeds offices following a meeting last week with Realtors, 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.

The group was worried that the closing would add another damaging blow to an already ailing housing market.

"We support his (Lee's) decision," Commission Chairman Bud Gray said. "We might need more input from the citizens. Personally I think it would work. We agreed to try it. I think employees like it, and I have heard some who are disappointed in the tax office and Register of Deeds that we didn't do it."

"I like the four-day week," Commissioner John Bell said. "On the other hand I support Lee's decision since he has the hands-on day-to-day job. It is a good reason to hold off on the expansion until we have more information."

It also makes sense to perform an evaluation of the cost-saving effort at the end of the year to see if it's effectively balancing budget and residents' needs, Commissioner Sandra McCullen added.

"I think the four-day week is an important effort to reduce the expense of local government," she said. "I think the one-year trial period is a good idea. I am interested in what citizens are saying and am concerned about customer service. The employees I have spoken to are generally in favor of the four day. I am hearing that more services are being delivered before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. We need to see if there will be substantial savings that could prevent a tax increase."

Commissioner J.D. Evans echoed those comments.

Evans said employees he had spoken to had at first experienced apprehension about the change but now like it. He also said, though, that Lee's decision was appropriate.

"I think the decision is in keeping with what may be best for those affected," Evans said. "I think it is appropriate he was willing to listen to what the Realtors and others had to say."

The reason for the experiment, saving money, has merit, Evans continued -- as long as the county is able to continue to provide services to the public.

That's why, he explained, the county wants a "clearer handle" on how the schedule works, hence the need to gather data over the course of a year.

He said the county must ensure that needed services are still provided to the public.

Commissioner Steve Keen, however, said he is reserving judgment on the four-day week because of a lack of information.

"It was a good idea, but these days gas and utilities are down," he said. "I think we are holding the line on what we told people six months ago. I think we very much need to revisit at the end of the year.

"I support the delay. I think it was a good decision by Lee. There is huge support not to do the four days for so many reasons. A large number of Realtors, contractors, attorneys felt people would not benefit so they spoke up. I think it is tribute to people for speaking up."

Ultimately, though, Com-mission Vice Chairman Jack Best said that he felt Smith -- who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the county -- has handled the issue appropriately.

"He is the manager," he said. "It is job to gather the information and make sure we do the right thing. If he thinks it is a good idea, fine.

"In some cases it may work fine and others it may not. Things change and we have got to look at all things to make sure we doing right so we don't get behind. I support what works.  If it's five days fine, if four days that's fine, too. I am in favor of looking at everything to save money and that works keep it, if not go back. If we don't try new things we will go stagnant."

Commissioner Andy Anderson is out of the country and could not be reached  for comment.