Our View: Friday closures worth a try
By opting to close City Hall on Fridays, the city of Steamboat Springs appears to have come up with a practical solution to a challenging issue. We think the plan is worthy of supporting, but we hope it’s not long before city employees and office hours can return to normal 40-hour schedules.
Beginning Monday, City Hall will open 30 minutes earlier and close 30 minutes later than usual. The 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. workdays will become the norm Mondays through Thursdays. City Hall will be closed on Fridays, beginning April 3.
The schedule change is a direct result of the city’s furlough program, in which city employees will take 10 percent pay cuts by working four hours less per week. The furloughs are expected to save the city $829,000 this year alone, and they were part of $2.5 million in budget cuts approved last week by the Steamboat Springs City Council.
Specifically, cutting four hours a week from City Hall’s operating hours will save the city $335,000 through the furlough program. Although some residents understandably are wary of a plan that cuts the number of days residents can access City Hall services by 20 percent, it appears City Manager Jon Roberts and city employees did their homework before making the decision to close shop on Fridays.
Fridays historically are the slowest days at City Hall, particularly in terms of the number of residents seeking services. Mondays, on the other hand, are the busiest. Opening a half-hour earlier and closing a half-hour later the other four days of the week should allow many residents to take care of their city business on the way to or from work, instead of trying to fit in such errands on lunch breaks or other times during the day.
Closing on Fridays certainly has its advantages for city employees – and we take no issue with those employees having a say in their schedule change. It’s worth noting that the 10 percent pay cuts hitting city staff also mean 10 percent cuts to their pension and Social Security contributions.
Had the city maintained its normal operating hours Monday through Thursday and simply cut Friday hours in half, employees with day care-aged children still would have to pay for that day of child care.
To help ease residents into the new City Hall schedule, the city is considering staffing the main phone line on Fridays. Doing so would be a smart move. The city’s emergency number for public works issues and other problems also will be staffed on Fridays, and drop box payments will be postmarked on time for those who drop them off on Fridays.
Finally, city officials are considering keeping Centennial Hall open and available to community groups on Fridays. We strongly encourage them to do so. Centennial Hall is a wonderful amenity for residents and one of a small number of meeting spaces capable of handling sizable audiences.
City government is seeing an 18 percent budget decrease from last year to this year, and it’s inevitable that cuts would be felt by the community. We think the plan to close City Hall on Fridays and extend operating hours on the other days of the work week is worth trying. We just hope it’s not permanent.
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As the snow melting off the peaks surrounding Steamboat Springs feeds the Yampa River, rafters, canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders are trying to make the most of it.