Photo by Matt Stensland
Karen Dodson transfers a call Thursday while filling in as receptionist at City Hall. Starting on April 3rd, Centennial Hall and City Hall may be closed Fridays as part of a furlough program.
Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts has proposed closing City Hall and Centennial Hall on Fridays beginning April 3, as part of a budget-balancing furlough program reducing city employees' hours and wages by 10 percent.
The two 10th Street offices house departments including the municipal court, planning and community development, finance, city clerk and public works. Office hours would increase by 30 minutes on the beginning and end of each day, Monday through Thursday, beginning March 30. The new hours on those days would be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The city estimates the move would save $335,275 this year. Citywide, the furlough program is expected to save $828,812 in 2009.
Roberts presented the plan Tuesday to Steamboat Springs City Council members, who raised no objections. On Thursday, however, the top two council members second-guessed the proposal and the impacts it might have on customer service.
"Obviously, we had to do something," City Council President Loui Antonucci said. "I didn't really see it as a problem (Tuesday), but we are in the service business."
Roberts said Wednesday that employees in the two buildings spent two hours evaluating six options for reducing hours.
"It was, I will tell you, a really collaborative effort," Roberts said. "That one just clearly came out as the No. 1 recommendation."
City spokeswoman Lauren Mooney said the decision works better than keeping hours the same Monday through Thursday and working half a day on Fridays - especially for city employees who drive to work from out of town or rely on daycare.
Fearing too much confusion, the city also didn't give much consideration to closing every other Friday.
"It's more consistent," Roberts said. "People get used to the fact that it's closed."
Mooney also said the extended hours Monday through Thursday would add convenience for residents.
"People can stop by on their way to and their way home from work," Mooney said. "This might actually work for more people."
City Council President Pro Tem Cari Hermacinski also didn't raise any objections Tuesday but said constituents since have raised a "good point" by claiming that the city has chosen the option most convenient to its employees rather than the public.
Roberts has said some people still may be working in the two buildings on Friday when they are closed to the public. Hermacinski said that if that is the case, she would like to at least see someone manning the front desk and answering the phone.
Antonucci agreed and said he plans to discuss the possibility with Roberts.
"I don't know if it's possible or not," Antonucci said.
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said some services, such as construction site inspections, still will be available on Fridays, but people will have to schedule them ahead of time. DuBord also noted that some standing meetings, such as the Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee's gathering every other Friday in Centennial Hall, may have to be moved. On the positive side, DuBord said the city expects to realize additional savings in utility and energy bills.
"There was no perfect solution," DuBord said. "We acknowledge that it will be inconvenient for a while, but people will get used to it."
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