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Henderson considers closing city offices on Fridays

Change could save city $1.6 million a year and could begin July 1

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Jeremy Twitchell

A handful of people patronize Henderson’s Development Services Center on a recent Friday morning. The city is considering shutting down all of its offices on Fridays to help save money.

Updated Monday, June 15, 2009 | 2:38 p.m.

Beyond the Sun

On a Friday morning, Henderson’s cavernous Development Services Center feels particularly empty. Aside from shoes squeaking as the occasional customer or employee walks the freshly cleaned floor, the only thing to punctuate the quiet is the loudspeaker that announces the next number to be served.

It’s one reason the Henderson City Council is scheduled to consider a measure Tuesday to close City Hall altogether on Fridays.

The other reason: the closure is projected to save the city $1.6 million a year in labor and utility costs at a time when nearly $60 million has already been cut from this fiscal year’s budget.

According to the posted agenda item, if approved, the Friday closures would begin July 1.

But the city needs to further evaluate staffing levels, service levels and other factors before closing, city spokeswoman Cindy Herman said. So, if the measure is approved, it likely wouldn’t be implemented until September, she said.

Most city offices already are closed on Fridays. But when Henderson went to a four-day work week for most employees in 1983, it kept a few offices open to provide basic services.

Besides the Development Services Center, which issues building permits and business licenses, and handles customer services for utilities, the clerk’s office is also open for passports and other services. A few employees also work Fridays in the finance, human resources and information technology departments.

With the recession and decline in construction, the Development Services Center has lost about half of its employees, most of whom have retired or transferred to other departments and not been replaced.

On the morning of Friday, June 12, some 11 customers trickled through the center over the course of about a half hour. Employees say it’s slightly slower than usual, but, yes, things usually are pretty slow on Fridays.

One employee said the question basically comes down to whether the city spends more to keep City Hall open on Fridays than it brings in by doing so. After a brief pause, the employee said the city “probably does.”

One customer, Troy Beer, was at City Hall to pull a permit for a job his family’s company, Sunworld Masonry, just lined up for the following Monday. When he hears that the city is considering closing on Fridays, he disapproves.

“I think that would be terrible,” he said.

Beer is down at the city to pull permits about twice a month, and while he usually tries to plan to do it between Monday and Thursday, he said, sometimes he just can’t make it on any other day than Friday.

“Sometimes, if you’re in crunch time and you need something done right away for the following week, it’s really nice to be able to come in on a Friday and take care of it,” Beer said.

But Beer’s No. 1 argument for keeping the Development Services Center open on Fridays is one of the main reasons the city is considering closing. “It’s really empty on Friday, so it’s nice if you can come down here then, because you can get in and out,” he said.

Another customer, Diane Phillips, is applying for a business license. She said her opinion on the Friday closure depends on how it affects employees.

“If (the city) is cutting their salaries, I don’t approve,” she said.

Herman said no decision has been reached regarding salary reductions or positions being cut. Those decisions will be part of the study the city will do, she said.

She said the city will also look at switching employees to the same four-day work week that their colleagues work.

The study will also look at how the city might maintain some services.

For example, Herman said, many residents pay their bills at Utility Service’s customer service windows on Fridays. “We want to maintain excellent the customer service level at which residents have ranked us in various customer surveys,” she said.

If City Hall closes on Fridays, the city also will have to figure out what to do with the marriage license bureau the Clark County clerk’s office operates there on Thursdays and Fridays.

The city worked for months to get the service set up in City Hall last year. The counter worker in the bureau said she issues on average 10 marriage licenses each Friday.

Herman cautioned that no final decision has been made and said the city will carefully evaluate all factors. “It really just comes down to conducting the analysis,” she said.

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