City goes to four day work week

Published 7:47 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

In an effort to cut expenses in the city’s budget, all city departments will go to a four-day work week.

The change should not affect emergency services, such as police patrol and fire department protection. Most of the changes will affect city offices and all administration.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said he has been following the economy and it has reflected a need to tighten the city’s financial belt. Employee opinion of the change was predominately positive. The only reason Miller listed for an employee being against the change was based on the desire to avoid extra house work that would be assigned by his significant other during that extra day off, Miller said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Police Chief Jim Luke, Fire Chief Keith Brown and Public Works Director Chad Frierson all said the change should help save money in fuel expenses and cost of operations.

“This is good fiscal responsibility to the tax payers of the city,” Mayor Greg Mitchell said.

Miller said the change will be temporary to see how it will work. Office hours will be made public in media announcements in the Picayune Item and on WRJW within the month, Miller said. The four 10-hour work days for city offices will take place Monday through Thursday.

A drainage grant amendment to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency application to include the entire Monroe Branch area sparked some comments from council members Jerry Bounds, Larry Watkins and Donald Parker.

“We need some help in all areas of Picayune, not just Monroe Branch,” Bounds said.

Council member Leavern Guy made a motion to table the matter until Hartman Engineering could explain how the work in Monroe Branch would affect the rest of the city.

The topic of increased utility rates gave Guy an opportunity to share his proposal that the city average utility bills for the entire year. That change would make it easier for fixed income residents, such as senior citizens, pay their bills.

Guy said averaging the utility bills involves taking the average of what a household would spend in a year, and charge that rate each month. This practice would help in cold winter months when residents’ natural gas bills rise with increased heating needs. Any overages throughout the year would be paid at the end of the year, he said.

Right now, the bills are months behind, but Financial Supervisor Amber Hinton said the city will work with citizens so that can pay their bills.

“I know we haven’t had some bills out for a while, but I think were ready to start doing that,” Mitchell said.

Guy made a motion for the city to start averaging the bills according to yearly usage, but his motion died for a lack of a second. Mitchell suggested the city still look into implementing that practice.

Sales tax revenues collected by the city have been leveling out, in spite of the projected population increase, Guy said. The city bases its operating budget off of those revenues. Guy said sales tax revenues make up about 48 percent of the general budget. He suggested the problem could be that people are shopping in other areas, such as Slidell, La. He made a motion to have the Chamber of Commerce, Partners for Pearl River County, Minority Business Group and Picayune Main Street team up and find out what surrounding areas such as Slidell offer that Picayune is not. That motion was approved.

The council went into executive session to discuss extending the completion date of the Comprehensive Plan Study Contract the city has with Neel Schaffer, on a contractual matter with the Intermodal Center, on a contractual matter with the Pearl River County Tax Collector, on a contractual matter with Industrial Park and on a personnel matter. Miller said the council tabled matters dealing with Neel Schaffer, the Intermodal Center and Industrial Park until the next meeting. The matter with the tax collector was approved and will allow that office to collect school district taxes.

The personnel matter dealt with Hinton stepping down as City Clerk for health reasons. Miller said she will continue to work for the city as the financial administrator.

In other business the council;

— Accepted a donation from Hancock bank for $50 to Picayune Police summer youth programs and other Police summer camp donations totaling $1,000 to go.

— Authorized Fire Marshal Pat Weaver to attend the Accelerant Detection Canine Program in Alfred Maine from Aug. 10 to Sept. 5 to conduct training. All expenses will be paid through the State Farm Accelerant K-9 Program.

The next meeting of the city council will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 19.