By BEN GRAFTON
At a special Aug. 7 Freeport City Council meeting attended by a number of city employees from the Water, Sewer and Fire Departments and from the office staff, Councilwoman Janice McLean initiated a discussion about changing employee work hours to a 10-hour day, four days per week. To cover essential services some employees in the Water and Sewer Departments would be off Friday – Saturday – Sunday while others would be off Saturday – Sunday – Monday to ensure coverage. Work days for office staff employees would be scheduled so that bill payment and other administrative services would continue to be open for business Monday to Friday. Because there is only one person in the office of the City Planner and in the office of the City Clerk, and since these offices must be open for business five days per week, these offices will continue to work the existing five day week schedule.
Throughout the four-day workweek discussions the audience participated freely, speaking from their seats, sometimes without being first recognized by the Council.
McLean said she believes the four-day work week has several advantages: Work crews would have a longer day in which to complete work orders. Savings should be realized on gasoline and on vehicle wear and tear. Employees would have an extra day off for appointments and other personal business. Administrative and billing departments would have time daily to do research and other office work before offices are opened to the general public at 8 a.m.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon expressed some concern about service levels available for the general public and Mayor Russ Barley expressed concern about covering absences.
It was reported that the majority of employees are in favor of changing to the four-day work week.
Following a recommendation by City Attorney Clayton Adkinson to run a test period for a specified time, McLean moved to go to the four-day work week for a test period of six months. This motion was approved by the Council.
A discussion followed about a possible revision of the current city policy covering accrual of leave. At present, employees can accumulate 120 hours of leave. McLean proposed increasing this to 240 hours, but after a brief discussion the subject was continued pending additional research.
McLean reported that there have been a number of problems with the performance of the city’s computer system. The Council approved advertising for qualifications of providers who could identify and correct the existing problems. After qualifiers are identified, the city will ask for proposals of changes to correct the problems in the computer system.
Moving forward, McLean opened a discussion about authorizing the mayor to make certain expenditures without prior approval of the Council. It was pointed out that the mayors of DeFuniak Springs, Niceville and other cities are given this authorization. After discussion, the Council granted approval of expenditures of up to $5,000 by the Mayor without prior approval by the Council.
A proposal was made to have the city charge a non-refundable fee, instead of the refundable fee now used for water and sewer service connections and disconnections. Brannon asked for more research to be done before acting on this proposal.
The Council approved a budget workshop to set a tentative millage rate at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21. A follow-up workshop at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 was also approved.
By BEN GRAFTON