Friday, July 17, 2009

Hailey, Bellevue already have shorter workweeks

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey has no plans to follow the county's recent decision to close all government offices on Fridays to save money. Yet city officials say individual departments have shown benefits from switching to four-day workweeks last year.

While Hailey workers are still putting in 40 hours each week, Bellevue employee hours have dropped to 32 due to budget shortfalls.

Parts of the Hailey city government are already on a four-day workweek.

City Administrator Heather Dawson said about one year ago the 20-member public works department began shutting down on Fridays. Public works employees service the water, streets and parks departments.

Dawson said the four-day work schedule increased efficiency by reducing the number of weekly set-up and break-down periods for city construction projects. Staff were able to work longer on the days they were on the clock.

"This saved the city money," she said. She was unable to say how much.

Dawson said the council's decision to shorten workweeks was based on the city's goal of reducing carbon emissions from city buildings and vehicles by 15 percent by 2015.

"The employee commute was factored into this goal of reducing emissions," she said. "The change also provided a cost benefit to employees during a period of high gas prices."

The Hailey City Council voted this spring not to extend four-day workweek schedules to the rest of City Hall employees. The council determined that shutting the entire building for three days would not be as cost-effective as shutting down individual departments.

"The council agreed that any savings would not be enough compared to the customer service we would lose by not being open five days a week," she said.

Bellevue moved to a four-day workweek in February.

City offices are closed on Mondays, and city employees are working 32-hour workweeks due to budget constraints.

"Our employees have seen 20 percent reductions in salaries," said City Administrator Tom Blanchard. "We are pretty nervous about it."

Tony Evans:

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