Jon Austria   The Daily Times
Jon Austria The Daily Times (The Daily Times)

 

AZTEC — Next month, the San Juan County Commission will consider moving county government employees to a four-day workweek and extending their daily work hours from eight to 10 hours.

Many governments and school districts around the country have switched from five, eight-hour workdays to four, 10-hour days, said Mike Stark, the county's operations officer, in a presentation during Tuesday's commission meeting.

Benefits of the four-day workweek include improved employee morale, better employee efficiency and reduced utility costs, among other things, Stark said.

The switch to a four-day workweek would save the county an estimated $55,000 in utility bills, he said.

About 90 percent of county government employees surveyed about the change in work schedule were in favor of making the switch, according to county documents.

But during the presentation on the topic on Tuesday, several commissioners expressed mixed feelings about how the switch would impact the public. Commissioners didn't take action on the workweek schedule during the meeting.

The switch would not affect the sheriff's office or public works department, where employees already work four, 10-hour days each week. It also wouldn't apply to the San Juan County Detention Center.

Most county government departments are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday. The switch to a four-day workweek could change those hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The city of Aztec switched to a four-day work week in 2010. Aztec City Manager Josh Ray said the city has seen more than a 30 percent decrease in some utility bills and a 14 percent decrease in the number of employee sick days.

Jon Austria   The Daily Times
Jon Austria The Daily Times (The Daily Times)

"The average person working an 8 to 5 job that had business to do with the county, whatever that business may be, has to take time off work. I see how (extended hours Monday through Thursday) can benefit the citizens of San Juan County," Commission Chairman Scott Eckstein said. "The biggest thing we need to explore is the benefits to the public. I certainly think this it's worth an experiment."

Joshua Payne, the president of San Juan County Abstract and Title Company, spoke at the meeting and said not having access to the clerk's office on Fridays could hurt his business.

Closing government offices on Friday "would be extremely detrimental to my industry and others in real estate," he said. "The ability to close a deal ... on Friday is absolutely critical."

Commissioner Jack Fortner said switching to a four-day workweek may improve employee moral, but he questioned the importance of the utility bill savings.

"This is only $55,000, and we're spending ($350,000) on dogs," he said, referring to the county's commitment to the new animal shelter being built in Farmington. "If we voted today, I'd be against it."

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel