San Juan County Council may reduce business hours

Islanders would have a little less time to conduct business at various county departments under legislation that's designed to help offset the impact of $1 million or more of pending budget cuts.

In a 5-1 decision, the San Juan County Council voted June 23 to put the proposal into the pipeline and have its legal team prepare it for possible approval at a July 14 public hearing, which begins at 2:10 p.m.

If approved, the legislation would have a dual effect. It would establish the "normal" business hours of the county and also allow the administrator to temporarily modify those hours should such a move be warranted. The council avoided determining, for now, what normal business hours of the county should be or in what manner they should be reduced in the event they need to be scaled back.

But the majority of council members agree most departments will need additional time without interruption, which means less time with the public either at the counter or on the phone, once the cuts go into effect.

The council is expected to make its final decision on the proposed $1 million cut today. About a dozen employees will have been laid off since the beginning of the year because of the budget reduction.

In support of the proposal, Councilwoman Lovel Pratt, South San Juan, said the looming $1 million budget cut will "dramatically affect the ability of all departments to get their work done."

But not everyone agreed that shutting doors and cutting back on the amount of time offices are open is an appropriate response.

Councilman Bob Myhr, Lopez/Shaw, cast the lone dissenting vote. Myhr argued that a different approach to management might allow offices to stay open during traditional business hours, while at the same time providing employees with enough uninterrupted time to complete their tasks.

"After all, we're here to serve the public," he said.

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