PORT RICHEY — Richard Reade has found a way to save taxpayer money, help the environment and give city employees a long weekend.
Switch to a four-day workweek.
The city manager said the idea, still in its beginning stages, would allow the city to cut fuel and energy costs by closing City Hall on Fridays. City Hall would operate Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
If the City Council approves the idea in the coming weeks, Reade said residents who work during regular business hours would benefit most because they would be able to handle city business before or after work.
"This is one area that can be a potential savings and (provide) our customers with more accessibility," Reade said. "We are accessible to more people throughout the week."
Not only would the shorter workweek lower the city's cooling and transportation costs, Reade said, but city employees would also burn less gas in their cars on the way home. That would save them money and, in a small way, help curb the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
"You may be working a couple hours longer a day, but how many hours do you spend in traffic?" Reade said. "If you go out later (after rush hour), you can get home quicker."
Reade said he hasn't crunched numbers to see how much the idea would save the city.
He said the new workweek would affect the majority of the city's 52 employees — excluding the city's 11 police officers and 17 full-time and part-time Fire Department employees. He said the Public Works Department would be on call for emergencies such as water main breaks.
Reade and other city staff members kicked around the idea of a four-day workweek during budget talks this year.
If the city of 3,200 adopts the condensed workweek, it will join a small group of cities and states attempting to cut operational costs during the economic downturn and encourage environmental awareness.
Earlier this month, Utah implemented a four-day workweek for most state employees with the long-term goal of reducing energy use. The change applied to about 80 percent of the state's work force when state offices changed their hours to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Public universities, the state court system and prisons are exempt.
Here in Florida, employees in the city of Coconut Creek, about an hour north of Miami, began a four-day workweek in October 2005.
Pam Kershaw, human resources director in Coconut Creek, said city employees work the same hours as Utah's employees. She said the city hasn't seen significant savings on operational costs such as electric bills, but said the move has saved fuel for city employees.
It's also a good recruitment tool for new employees, Kershaw said, and allows the city's current employees to use Friday to take care of personal business such as doctor's appointments.
Kershaw said customer satisfaction has been high because of the extended hours that the city officers are open. Another perk: "We have fewer employees on the road during peak driving hours," Kershaw said.
Back in Port Richey, residents such as Mike Latini are in support of the four-day workweek.
"Costwise for the city, if they can equate this to dollars saved, in fuel or energy costs, I think it would be a plus," Latini said.
Mayor Richard Rober said city employees have spoken out in favor of the new workweek. He said closing City Hall on Fridays could help the city stay afloat during a tough economy.
"You have a whole day taken away from the city, but the four-day workweek is part of the compromises of keeping the millage rate low," Rober said.
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.