Friday, July 17, 2009

Ketchum, Sun Valley won’t follow county

Cities are reluctant to move to a four-day workweek

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle and Building and Fire Department Clerk Marta Thompson sort through papers at the Ketchum Building Department.

Though no official decisions have been made, it appears unlikely that Ketchum or Sun Valley will follow the county's move to a four-day work schedule.

The new work schedule for the county begins Aug. 31. Under the plan approved by Blaine County Commissioners earlier this week, county offices will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The move means that except during certain holidays, people will not be able to access Blaine County offices on Fridays.

Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich said the city of Sun Valley would not follow suit.

"That may be good for the county, but the city of Sun Valley isn't going to do anything along those lines," Willich said.

He said many of the city's constituents are often in town for three-day weekends and need to do business on Fridays.

Willich also said the city's street department had tried a four-day schedule before he took office and dropped the program because it was too difficult to get jobs completed.

Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer agreed.

"I have spoken with Willich about it and it doesn't seem like a good fit, especially because we are so service oriented," Hammer said. "Being closed to the public for one day a week wouldn't be an approach we want to take."

Hammer also said the city is already focused on cost savings, and with a staff of only 25 full-time employees, the savings would probably be minimal.

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and council members were more divided about changing Ketchum's workweek. Hall said he would bring up the issue some time in August, but that the decision ultimately rests with the city's employees.

"I am going to keep an open mind, I haven't done any research yet," he said. "I'll probably do an internal poll to take the temperature of our staff and see what they think. Certainly I am interested in the concept as it relates to saving energy and getting our employees off the highway."

Councilman Charles Conn agreed. He said that while he acknowledged local builders' concerns about the delay in real estate transactions, he would like to see what, if any, savings a shift to a four-day schedule would bring.

"I definitely think it is worth considering," Conn said. "I would like to see the cost calculations first."

Ketchum Council President Baird Gourlay disagreed.

"I don't think we can because we are such a tourist-based economy," Gourlay said. "There are too many functions that we provide. Frankly, I think we should be open seven days a week but that's because I operate a tourist-based business."

Like Willich, Gourlay cited the high number of second-home owners who have a limited time to work with the city.

"Let's say they want to remodel a bathroom while they are here, and they only have a couple of weeks to get everything organized and done. It's not a good idea for us not to be available," he Gourlay.

Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks said the city's main focus is to keep the budget afloat and that consideration of changes to the work schedule would have to take place in the future.

"We're letting the county take the lead on this," Marks said. "We haven't looked at it extensively."

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