June 24, 2014 10:52:57 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The city of Columbus operates on a four-day work week, but some councilmen say it is time to review the schedule.
Since 2008, all public works, federal programs, inspection department, municipal court and administrative personnel have had Fridays off. The move was made to reduce use of utilities and equipment and save costs. The Dispatch has asked for but not received data relating to whether the city has actually seen those savings.
Official city hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
Eight Mississippi cities with populations similar to Columbus, including neighboring Starkville, operate on five-day work weeks. The other seven cities polled include Horn Lake, Clinton, Ridgeland, Pearl, Madison, Pascagoula and Meridian. Lowndes County operates on the same five-day schedule.
Councilman Bill Gavin, who wasn't on the council when the change was approved, said last year before municipal elections that one of the proposals he would make to the council if re-elected was returning to the five-day work week in an effort to be more convenient for city residents.
Right now, however, he doesn't believe he has the votes he needs for the policy to change.
"Until I can get the support to bring it back up, there really is no point in bringing it up," Gavin said. "It's just going to cause controversy."
On one hand, he added, the three-day weekend is attractive to potential employees and is a recruiting tool. But the city is a business funded by taxpayer money, Gavin said, so it's imperative that the city be as available as possible to taxpayers.
"They're off on Friday, so they can make doctor's appointments that they would otherwise take a day off to do," Gavin said of employees. "The down side of that is the city is not open for business."
At least two other councilmen -- Joseph Mickens and Kabir Karriem -- said they are willing to review the four-day work week to see if it is effective.
Karriem went as far as to say city government should be open five days a week, noting that patrons of his family restaurant routinely inquire about the possibility of the city returning to a five-day work week.
"If a developer comes to town, they have to wait until Monday to talk to somebody in the building and inspection department," Karriem said. "If you have a ticket to pay or have to pay a fine, you can't do it on Friday. With anything, you have to evaluate it and see if it's still serving its purpose. I think it needs to be looked at and any time we can offer the best services possible to the constituents of the city residents of the city, I think we need to look at that."
Four Columbus residents asked by The Dispatch, however, said they had no problem with the current schedule. One of them, Billy Coleman, said he once went to the building inspection department on a Friday to learn it was closed, but came back another day instead.
"It hasn't been a big deal to me," Coleman said. "I haven't had a problem with it."
Balancing convenience to citizens and employee morale was the main issue Mickens said he saw.
"The constituents have a point," Mickens said. "If they have a problem, who do they call? If they need something taken care of, they feel like the city should be open (on Friday). We have to look at it from a citizen standpoint and see what the people want because that's who we're here to serve. They're the ones who pay our bills."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.