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Adams to reconsider Five-Day Workweek at Town Hall

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Town officials are considering moving back to having staff working five days a week. 
 
The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday asked Town Administrator Jay Green to continue investigating shifting Town Hall hours to add a half day on Friday.
 
"I think you are hearing from us that you are on the right path," Chairwoman Christine Hoyt said. "We look forward to hearing back from you."
 
In 2016, Town Hall shifted to a four-day-a-week schedule with extended hours to make up a 35-hour workweek.
 
Hoyt said this was not always the most popular decision among residents.
 
"Aside from the tax rate, this is the No. 1 item I am asked about," Hoyt said. "When is Town Hall going back to a five-day workweek? This comes up an awful lot."
 
The Selectmen asked Green to research possible alternatives some months ago and Wednesday he had a suggestion: return to a five-day workweek schedule with a half-day on Friday. 
 
Green said he looked at Selectmen's meetings from 2016 and noted the decision was originally made to allow for some savings with Town Hall all but shut down for a day.
 
He said this has not really panned out because some employees are often in the building on Fridays finishing up work so the building still needs to be heated. He added that even if the building was empty and all of the lights were shut off, savings would be minimal because the building is pretty efficient.
 
He went on to say the decision was made to create a more attractive working environment to create a better "work/life balance" in Adams. It also allowed for extended evening hours for residents.  
 
Green said town staff noted that Town Hall is not that busy after 5 p.m. He added that the shorter workweek has created minimal overtime costs but costs nonetheless.
 
He added that the different hours among different town buildings and departments have also caused confusion. Because of this, days off are not the same across all departments.
 
The lack of Friday hours can often make posting meeting agendas a tad cumbersome, he said.
 
"We have had difficulties posting agenda, especially when there are holidays," he said. "It is sometimes hard to get things up in time." 
 
Green proposed new hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Town Hall would stay open until 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday hours would be 8 to noon. He said these hours were just suggestions.
 
He considered the hours would still be pretty attractive to employees. Being open for a half-day Friday would alleviate agenda posting issues and appease residents who asked for Friday hours. And this would also address the small overtime issue.
 
Green said the building would still be empty for a portion of normal work hours Friday, which would allow for unimpeded cleaning, an important step to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
 
He did add that he would want to at least align Town Hall hours with the Council on Aging. He said this has been confusing for folks since 2016.
 
Green added that he thought the town should also develop a work from home policy, noting some employees may be able to work from home on Fridays
 
He had spoken about the change with town employees and noted the response is about 50/50 among staff. Some enjoy the three-day weekend, others would prefer to go back to a five-day week schedule. 
 
He said any change would have to be brought before the clerical union.
 
"This is not a thing that is happening tomorrow, and we have a lot of changes in municipal government right now with a lot of retirements," Green said. "We are still in a pandemic, and a lot of us are spread thin. But we will get this in the pipeline."
 
The Selectmen agreed with many of Green's points. Selectman John Duval came out in favor of Green's exact plan but said he wanted Green to collect more information and meet with the union before he made a motion.
 
In other business, Green said he and Town Accountant Mary Beverly have been working on an early draft of the budget, and he has asked departments to hand in their proposed operating budgets.
 
With this, he noted the longtime town accountant plans to retire at the end of the month. He said he hopes to have a new hire before the Selectmen to ratify at the next regular meeting.
 
The Selectmen did ratify another hiring on Wednesday with Michelle DeRose named as the Department of Public Works administrative assistant. She will replace Marilyn Kolis who retired after nearly 30 years of service to the town.
 
DeRose will also work with the Parks Commission, the Board of Health, and the Cemetery Commission. Green said he hopes to merge the DPW assistant and inspection services assistant positions.
 
• The Selectmen also appointed the former Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathanial Karns to the Zoning Board of Appeals to replace former member, James Duda who moved out of the area.
 
"The town is very fortunate to have someone like Nat Karns interested in getting involved in the community," said Duval, a member of the commission. "Adams is the winner in this nomination."
 
Hoyt said there is a second vacancy on the ZBA with another one anticipated in the near future.

 


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Thunderfest To Go Virtual This Year

ADAMS, Mass. — ProAdams has made the decision to hold the tenth annual Thunderfest virtually this year on March 6.
 
“Our sponsors contribute to ProAdams, in part, to support our events in Adams," said Raymond
Gargan, co-chair of ProAdams. “But with the Coronavirus, our traditional gathering is just not possible. So, we've come up with an alternative idea. We're going virtual." 
 
Thunderfest was held last year on March 7, six days before COVID-19 brought an end to large events in Massachusetts.
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