Friday, July 10, 2009

County set to vote on 4-day work week

County offices would be closed on Fridays

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County’s Department of Motor Vehicles is among a number of county offices that could be closed on Fridays under a proposed shift to a four-day workweek. If the proposal is approved, hours during the rest of the week would be lengthened to make up the difference. Photo by Willy Cook

The Blaine County Commission this week delayed a vote on whether to shift the hours of operation at county offices to a four-day workweek. Commissioners will continue their discussion of the proposal at a meeting next Tuesday, July 14.

Commissioners discussed the proposal Thursday but ran out of time before they could reach a decision, according to Jenny Lovell, the commissioners' assistant.

The meeting Tuesday will be held in the upstairs meeting room of the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Commissioners will decide sometime today what time to schedule the discussion. The commission's secretary typically posts agendas for the next week's meeting on Friday afternoons.

The county's consideration of the four-day workweek is primarily an outgrowth of efforts to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2025. Officials have also cited potential cost savings.

Under the plan, the number of hours county services are available to the public would not be cut. County offices would be closed Friday but hours of business on other days would be extended into the morning or evening to compensate. This would benefit working people, who often are unable to take care of county business after leaving work, county staff have said.

Some business interests in the valley—namely the real estate industry—have complained that not being able to access county offices on Friday could be detrimental.

In May, commissioners had voted to delay this decision, so they could gather more information about the potential impacts the change might have on local business.

The Sawtooth Board of Realtors had opposed the plan over concerns that limiting access to the county recorder's office would limit their ability to close real estate transactions.

Most county offices would be subject to the closures, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Planning and Zoning Department.

Last March, the commission listened to details of an internal survey that asked county employees whether they'd like to move to four 10-hour shifts a week to help cut back on power use and help the county save money. Of the nearly 100 respondents, 65 percent preferred the four-day work week, the report showed.

According to county staff, moving to four days a week would help reduce the county's carbon emissions—which scientists say contribute to climate change—in two ways. It would reduce energy use in county buildings because of reduced heating and lighting needs, they said, and it would limit trips to work that employees drive each week.

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