Wednesday, June 23, 2010

4 days, 10 hours

County sorts through report on shortened workweek


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The four-day, 10-hour workweek is saving Blaine County money, and employees want it to continue, according to a report given to county commissioners yesterday.

Char Nelson, director of county operations, said the county has saved nearly $10,500 in utilities, maintenance and custodial work compared with the same quarter last fiscal year. This is only the second quarter in the four-day workweek trial year, which began in September. The six-month savings for the county total just under $17,600 compared with last year.

A survey of county employees conducted in May 2010 found that an overwhelming 94.5 percent of county employees support continuation of the four-day week.

Preliminary results from a community survey have shown that 53 percent of respondents found the extended county hours to be convenient. County staff have stated that the 10-hour workday would enable more people who work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule to visit county offices on their own time, rather than needing to take time from work.

However, the results were less positive when community members were asked if they supported the county's efforts to reduce emissions and costs by going to a four-day week. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they support closing one day a week, while 40 percent said they did not.

County Administrator Derek Voss said Tuesday that while the results of the community survey were preliminary, the county should use the numbers to make sure the needs of the community were being met. Commissioner Larry Schoen also expressed concern with this result.

"Forty percent is a lot of people," he said, adding that the question didn't make it clear that the county was also saving money by closing on Fridays. "It will cost the county money to return to the five-day model."

The project was implemented last year as part of an effort to reduce the county's carbon emissions. Nelson said the four-day week reduces heating and lighting needs and limits the number of trips that employees drive to work.

The trial year will continue through the end of fiscal 2010, which ends Sept. 30. Nelson said she expects the board to vote on a decision regarding the workweek's continuation by the end of August.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

County workweek by the numbers

· $10,439 saved over this quarter compared with last year.

· 14 percent reduction in kilowatt use.

· 94.5 percent of county employees support the four-day week.




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