BELDING — The six-month experiment of a four-day work week for city employees in Belding is here to stay — at least for another six months.
At Tuesday evening’s Belding City Council meeting, City Manager Meg Mullendore requested that council members approve the four-day work week as a “permanent structure” Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The four-day work week began last August when council members approved the change from a standard five-day work week for a trial period of six months, in which city employees work four 10-hour days, as opposed to five eight-hour days.
“What we have found is that we are reaching clients that we haven’t been able to in the past because their work hours ran concurrent with the city hall office hours, so they weren’t able to come in and conduct business,” Mullendore said. “The bulk of the feedback has been very positive relative to that and appreciative of those that are utilizing it.”
Mullendore reiterated her comments from last August, saying the switch could potentially save the city $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
However, Mullendore said there was insufficient time to perform an audit of the new work week.
“We haven’t been able to do a very thorough audit, we need more time for that,” she said. “What we have found is we are reaching clients that we haven’t been able to reach in the past.”
The lack of an audit to show evidence of a cost savings was a concern to all five council members.
“We were supposed to have an audit on how much we were going to save, but there’s no audit that’s been done, right?” Councilman Joe Feuerstein asked.
“We haven’t really been able to simply because … we recognized that the bulk of the savings would probably come in the winter months, but because we’ve only had a couple of months to do a thorough audit it would be premature at this point,” Mullendore responded.
Feuerstein then suggested rather than make the switch permanent, the city wait another six months until a proper audit can be performed.
“I think that we should extend it until we get an audit done on it (and see) how much money is saved,” he said.
Councilman Mike Scheid agreed with Feuerstein’s thoughts.
“We need to know if there really truly is a savings doing this or not,” Scheid said. “There have been some people, not very many, but a few have made comments about it. They’re surprised to get down there (on fridays) and see (city hall) closed.”
Councilman Jerry Lallo said he’d like to hear more from Belding residents before a concrete decision is made.
“I’d like to see how much we’d be saving too,” Lallo said. “I’d be willing to put this off until we can get a thorough audit. I’d also like to see, maybe we could get some comment cards, and as people come into city hall, people fill out comment cards. Are any other cities are size doing this?”
Mullendore couldn’t name any cities off-hand, but last August she stated 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.
Mayor Ron Gunderson said he heard concerns from residents that took issue with the city’s police chief only being in the office four days of the week.
“One of the things that’s been brought to my attention is the fact that the police chief, Dale Nelson, is also included in this,” Gunderson said. “And even though we use the DPW on a daylight savings time basis so they can utilize the daylight, the one complaint that came to me was the fact that we have a police force here 24/7, and in essence we have a police chief who is here for (four) 10-hour days. I had two people who were concerned that there is a department to run there.”
After council discussion, Scheid motioned that the resolution be tabled until the July 1 council meeting.
Mullendore made the recommendation that the city hours change from ending at 6:30 p.m. each day to 6 p.m.
“What we did notice is right now it is 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., however, we’ve only had one person utilize (the city hours) after 6 p.m., along with one phone call.”
After agreeing to make the change from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m, council members voted unanimously to table the resolution until July so a proper audit can be performed.
The city will continue to operate on a four-day schedule, Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., until council members vote in July to either make the change permanent or revert to a five-day work week.