Serving the High Plains

County offices testing out four-day week

All Quay County offices will switch to a four-day work schedule after New Year’s as part of a trial program after county commissioners unanimously approved the proposal Monday.

Current hours at the courthouse in Tucumcari are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with offices closed during lunch. After Jan. 1, courthouse hours will be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with offices staying open during lunchtime due to employees’ staggered schedules.

If the four-day work week doesn’t work, the county has the option after one year to switch back to its previous schedule.

County Manager Daniel Zamora, who recommended the four-day work week, made his case with a PowerPoint presentation during the commission’s meeting.

Zamora said the four-day week would have these benefits:

• It would add four hours a week of service to constituents;

• It would improve quality of life for employees because it aligns with schools’ four-day week and gives them more time with their children;

• It would offer savings for daycare;

• It would save fuel for employees and the county;

• It would reduce medical claims and sick leave;

• It would lower the county’s utility costs. He said Colfax County saved $60,000 in those costs per year since switching to a four-day week;

• It would increase worker productivity because longer workdays would give more time to complete tasks;

• It would make the county more attractive to prospective employees.

Zamora said all of the county’s elected officials supported the idea. He said he also quizzed many county employees, and no one opposed a four-day week.

He noted half of county employees already are on a four-day workweek, including the road, detention and dispatch departments. The counties of San Juan, Torrance, Colfax, Union, Harding and Mora also have four-day workweeks.

Zamora said one obstacle was during elections, when the clerk’s office is required by state law to be open on Fridays during early voting. But County Clerk Ellen White said that was workable with appropriate employee scheduling.

No one in the commission’s chambers voiced opposition to the four-day plan, and several spoke in favor.

“Our community operates on a four-day week because of schools,” Commissioner Robert Lopez said. “I think it’s a good fit.”

Commissioner Jerri Rush also said she supported the proposal but noted: “People don’t like change, but they can get used to it.”

County Treasurer Patsy Gresham said foot traffic at the courthouse has declined in the last two years because more people are using the internet or phone to conduct business.

“I think it’s a good time to try it,” she said of Zamora’s plan.

County Finance Director Cheryl Simpson said employees having Friday off from work would be “helpful” for them for appointments.

In other business:

• County lobbyist Clinton Harden, a former state senator, told the commission that funds called junior monies in addition to yearly capital-outlay allocations will be available early next year because the state revenue is so robust.

Harden initially said he wasn’t sure how much money would be available for the county. Harden & Associates colleague Kathy Elliott said in a Tucumcari City Commission work session last month she estimated the amount would be between $100,000 and $200,000. Informed about that Monday, Harden acknowledged she probably was accurate.

On a related note, Zamora urged that the completion of work to County Road AP and radio upgrades for fire and emergency medical workers be among the county’s priorities for such funds. The commission approved his recommendation.

• Commissioners approved a sub-recipient grant agreement with the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to buy emergency generators for the county’s four busiest rural fire departments.

Zamora explained he wanted to get generators for all the rural fire districts, but that was rejected. The state contributed $24,236, with the county’s share of $7,573.86.

Rush abstained from voting because she is a member of the Forrest fire department.

• Commissioners approved a budget adjustment of $36,700 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to use American Rescue Plan Act federal funds for additional hazard pay to county employees who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Zamora said he recently received correspondence from the New Mexico Department of Tax and Revenue that indicates it wants to hold delinquent property tax auctions for all counties by June 30. The state has not held an auction in over two years due to the pandemic. Gresham estimated about 100 properties in Quay County are in arrears for their taxes for more than two years.