Town clerk alters hours

Office has longer days, shorter workweek �

July 17, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Town Clerk Deb Beckett recently extended hours and shortened the workweek for her office. Now she has tweaked those hours after finding people liked to come in a little late, but not during dinnertime.

Residents can pay tax bills, check public records or do other business with the clerk's office Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The office remains closed on Mondays.

Earlier this month, Beckett moved to a four-day week, with longer hours running from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The office used to close along with the rest of town departments at 4:30 p.m.

Beckett said she discovered that many people liked to come in right after work, between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. But few people showed during the office's last hour of operation.

Beckett now figures that adding hours at the beginning and end of each day will best serve the public.

"The earlier hours are more convenient for some people, while the later hours are more convenient for others," she said.

The change mirrors a fuel-saving measure now being made in workplaces around the country. In Utah, state employees will begin working four days a week starting next month. Closer to home, the Middlebury town clerk's office last week began a Monday-Thursday workweek.

Beckett said the change here is an experiment to see if longer hours will better serve the public. Fuel savings for the department's four employees is a fringe benefit, as is the three-day weekend.

The long weekend is "nice, but it wasn't the main factor," she said.

Kathy Smardon, assistant town clerk, said she appreciates the fuel savings. Her round-trip commute from Jericho is more than 20 miles.

She said the most common way residents are using the extended hours so far is to pay water bills and renew driver's licenses.

Other town departments will continue to maintain their usual hours. Town Manager Rick McGuire said a four-day week wasn't compatible with work carried out by most other departments.

Attorneys and paralegals are among the most frequent users of the clerk's office. Peter Schubart, an attorney with real estate law firm Wick & Maddocks, said he visits Williston to check property records. He said the new four-day week is OK.

"Basically, it would be better to be able to go any day," he said. "But it's not wildly inconvenient that I can't go on Monday anymore."

The new hours are scheduled to run through the end of August, Beckett said. She then plans to reevaluate the arrangement.

At least in September, it is likely the clerk's office will have to revert to a five-day week to meet state requirements related to the upcoming November election. Already, Beckett will have to open the office on Monday, July 21, the filing deadline for candidates.

"Maybe we will switch from being closed Mondays to being closed Fridays," Beckett said. "We'll see how it goes." �