NORTH ADAMS -- Summer has come and gone, but city employees are still operating under a modified schedule that shuts down city offices and departments early on Friday afternoons.
It's a move that Mayor Richard J. Alcombright hopes to make permanent, with hours running Monday to Thursday from 8 to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 8 to 1:30 p.m. year round.
"We haven't had any complaints from our employees or from our constituents," he said during Tuesday night's council meeting. "We've found that Friday afternoons are slower than the rest of the week."
Traditionally, the office and departmental hours revert back to the normal hours of operation after Labor Day, with office hours running from 8 to 4:30 p.m. daily.
The move, which shortens employee lunches from an hour to 30 minutes Monday to Thursday and eliminates lunch hours on Fridays, requires an ordinance change and the approval of the City Council.
While several councilors agreed the city's hours of operation need to be reexamined, many were more inclined to consider a shift of hours to extend office hours once a week.
"I really like the idea of extended hours on a Thursday night," Coun cilor Jennifer Breen said. "I think many people work past 4:30 p.m. The hours preclude those people from paying their taxes or getting permits outside of work hours. I think a lot of people do their banking on Thursday nights and many stores are open later on Thursdays."
Councilor John Barrett III said the administration should be looking at whether or not the shortened lunch hours are allowed legally under state and federal employee labor laws and under current contracts for impacted departments.
"If the employees are happy with it, I have no problem with it," he said. "But I think it raises several questions. Who's going to monitor these 30 minute lunches? If an employee takes a Friday off, does it count as a full day?"
Councilor Lisa Blackmer said she was displeased that the hours had been changed prior to the proposed ordinance change.
"I fell like you get to be the good guy and we get to be the parents," she said. "The city employees do a good job, but I think you've put us in a situation where we're the bad guys if we say no."
She also expressed concern over how the change is impacting permits and inspections -- services that can't take place on Friday afternoons under the modified schedule.
"We're at a time when bank ers hours aren't even banker's hours anymore. Most banks are open seven days a week," she said. "What do other communities are size, such as Greenfield, do?"
Alcombright said a vast majority of permit applications are available online, as well as the ability to make payments.
"I think a lock box can be put in place for people who want to drop off payments," he said. "I think our hours are quite satisfactory."
The only employees not im pacted by the change in hours are those who work at the North Adams Public Library.
The ordinance change was re ferred to the council's general governance committee for review.
"I ask the committee to move as expeditiously as possible, since these changes are in place without an ordinance revision," Barrett said.
A request for the city to consider accepting the Senior Citizen Property Tax Work-off Abatement program, submitted by Breen, was referred to the council's finance committee.
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