HARWICH — For the past dozen years town hall departments have had their doors open and staff has been working until 8 p.m. on Mondays as an exercise in convenience to working people who may not be able to conduct business on the usual 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule. But that practice will be changing.
Beginning in January, town hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week.
As a tradeoff for providing access to a broader segment of the public on Mondays, town hall closed on noon on Fridays. The policy was implemented under acting town administrator Stephen Lombard in July 2006. The Harwich Employees Association ratified the policy in its July 10, 2006 contract.
“A lot of people work out of town and can't get here from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. So they have to have someone else do their business for them. We'll try this for a while and see if it works,” Lombard said at the time. The thought was also that people coming into town hall on Monday evenings might also stay for the selectmen's meetings.
“We really don't know the best way all the time to serve the public. With demands on the workforce and two parents working in some households, we need to look at these things and provide some flexibility,” then board of selectmen chairman Robin Wilkins said.
A poll was taken among town hall staff in 2006 and the Monday evening opening was supported unanimously. A trial period was established, and in December 2006 selectmen voted to implement the policy on a long-term basis.
Last week in executive session, selectmen approved provisions in a new collective bargaining agreement that will cease the Monday evening hours. This week Town Administrator Christopher Clark issued a memo reporting the planned change of hours effective Jan. 1.
Clark wrote, “At that time, town hall employees will work 35 hours per week Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. As you know, this change in hours is the result of negotiated changes in the HEA and SEIU contracts.”
The decision was based on a survey conducted last spring covering six Mondays in April and May during which customer visits were counted in various department from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The department receiving the most visits was the treasurer/tax collector's office with 78 people stopping by over the six weeks. The building department had 35 customers and the assessing department 27. The health department had 13 customers, the planning department eight and conservation department six.
Based on those numbers selectmen supported the change in policy to open eliminating the Monday evening hours and extending the Friday hours to 4 p.m.