BELDING — If work hours have prevented citizens of Belding from making trips to city hall after the doors open and before they close for the day, a change in days and hours may have opened a new door for citizens to find time to now squeeze in a visit.
Members of the city council voted 5-0 at Tuesday evening’s meeting for a trial period of six months to adopt a four-day work-week schedule.
According to City Manager Meg Mullendore, the change will apply to all administrative positions, as well as city hall “front-line” staff, who work directly with members of the public, and Department of Public Works (DPW) workers, with the change taking effect in approximately one month’s time.
“What we’re trying to do, because government can be seen as non-friendly and non-customer service oriented, is help the taxpayers and the businesses,” she said. “Those are our clients and what we’re seeing is a shift in how we treat our clients. We need to be more accommodating to them and one of the ways to do that is to expand the office hours.”
The work schedule will change to a shortened week of Monday through Thursday, giving city employees an off-day on Fridays.
However, the days will be increased by 2.5 work hours each day, resulting in a 42-hour work week, an increase from the 40-hour week currently in place.
City hall would open at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.
Mullendore said there are two primary reasons for the move from a traditional five-day work week to the four-day change.
“First, it affords greater opportunities for customer service as city hall would be open longer each day Monday through Thursday,” she said.
“This allows our customers extended hours of service that they don’t normally have.”
Mullendore said it made sense logically to remove Friday from the work week because, statistically, that is the least busy day in city hall with the least amount of foot traffic in comparison to the other weekdays.
“Second, since city hall and DPW facilities would be shut down for three consecutive days, we will recognize a cost saving in utility charges of anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 annually,” she said.
Mullendore said she would eventually audit the change to determine the actual savings.
“Staff will monitor customer traffic both before and after the current hours of operation to determine the volume of customers we see and which days are the heaviest in traffic,” she said.
According to Mullendore, one of the largest advantages of the new system is that, in other cities, city employee production appears to increase with the addition of the Friday “business” day during the week in which to schedule their appointments.
Mullendore said once daylight hours are reduced in November, DPW workers would return to a five-day work week.
“Due to the daylight hours from November through the end of March, they would revert back to the five days of eight hours,” she said.
Mullendore said she would be able to determine after six months, if not sooner, whether or not the change is effective. She will reevaluate the change at that time.
“We would make a recommendation to council at the conclusion of the six months as to the effectiveness of the program and whether it should be continued permanently,” she said.
Mullendore said the change would not be applicable to the city’s police officers and firefighters, aside from the administrative positions of
Police Chief Dale Nelson and Fire Chief Gregg Moore, however, Moore said though he doesn’t have an issue with the change, he would not utilize the four-day week and remain on five days.
Mayor Ron Gunderson and Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Belding asked DPW Director Ernie Thomas how the DPW would be affected by the change.
“Do you have any concerns with how much time in one day you would be working?” Belding asked. “Obviously your department is labor intensive.”
Thomas said there were several pros as well as cons to the change.
“Days like today when it’s hot like it is, they were out weed-eating until noon and I pulled them in to do more inside jobs just to keep out of the sun,” Thomas said. “It would be a lot longer day from 7 am. until 6:30 p.m. at night in 90 degree heat. But an extra hour working in the morning, when it’s cooler, would have been beneficial. I’m going to know in the first week if this is going to work or not.”
Mullendore said approximately 50 communities in the state are utilizing a four-day work week, with the nearest community being Walker, which has a population of 23,537, according to the U.S. census, compared to Belding at 5,757.
Mullendore said she didn’t require approval from city council, as it is an administrative decision, however, she stated she wanted the blessing of city council members regardless.
Mullendore said when the change goes into effect, community members will be notified well in advance via several outlets.