El Do­rado re­solves lunch-hour staffing woes at City Hall

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - TIA LYONS

EL DO­RADO — Be­gin­ning to­day, City Hall em­ploy­ees will once again be avail­able to serve the pub­lic dur­ing the noon hour.

The El Do­rado City Coun­cil re­solved the mat­ter last week after Mayor Veron­ica Smith-Creer asked coun­cil mem­bers how they would like to ad­dress it and after hear­ing from a City Hall staff mem­ber.

The is­sue re­volved around a de­ci­sion by the El Do­rado City Coun­cil to elim­i­nate com­pen­satory time for most city em­ploy­ees, ef­fec­tive Jan. 1.

On Dec. 20, the coun­cil voted on a buy­out of $192,560.66 for the re­main­ing com­pen­satory time that was owed to city em­ploy­ees.

When Smith-Creer stepped into the mayor’s of­fice for her first full day of work Jan. 2, some City Hall em­ploy­ees told her they had used com­pen­satory time for a ro­ta­tion sched­ule to an­swer phones and as­sist res­i­dents who went to the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing to con­duct busi­ness dur­ing the lunch hour.

“Peo­ple come up here to buy trash bags or to buy per­mits and con­duct busi­ness, and for some, that’s the only time they have dur­ing the day to take care of busi­ness,” coun­cil mem­ber Dianne Ham­mond said Thurs­day.

Coun­cil mem­bers Billy Blann and Vance Wil­liamson asked how the com­pen­satory time added up for City Hall em­ploy­ees dur­ing a 40-hour work­week.

Ham­mond said some em­ploy­ees would mit­i­gate the time by leav­ing early on Fri­days.

Smith-Creer said some City Hall work­ers were in the au­di­ence, and she called Deb­bie Stin­son, ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant in the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works, to the lectern.

Stin­son said staff mem­bers would ro­tate weeks dur­ing which one em­ployee would work dur­ing the noon hour.

“Ev­ery­one had a week they were re­spon­si­ble for, and they would work the lunch hour five days a week. We take it an hour at a time, maybe leave early on Fri­day or if we have to go to the doc­tor or some­thing like that,” she said.

“City Hall has only one prod­uct to sell, and that is ser­vice to the pub­lic. If we close the door five hours a week, then you’re cut­ting that ser­vice,” Blann said.

The coun­cil sub­se­quently voted unan­i­mously in fa­vor of a sug­ges­tion by coun­cil mem­ber Mike Rice to stag­ger lunch breaks for City Hall em­ploy­ees.

Coun­cil mem­ber Wil­lie McGhee said the ar­range­ment would also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to cross-train city em­ploy­ees — a move for which he has long ad­vo­cated.

Smith-Creer said a new sched­ule would be worked out and that staff mem­bers will be avail­able to serve the pub­lic dur­ing the lunch hour this week.

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