By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Town officials are still looking for ways to extend hours for the town's utility office.
The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which poses a problem for some residents, according to Mayor Timothy Darr.
"Sixty percent of our community works out of town," Darr said. Residents have complained to him, saying that by the time they get home from work, the office is closed and they can't pay their bills.
During Monday night's work session, Darr asked Town Manager Steve Burke and Director of Finance Kim Gilkey-Breeden to meet and try to find a solution.
Gilkey-Breeden said the office closes at 4:30 p.m. to give staff enough time to balance out the day's work without accumulating overtime.
"We had a budget crunch a few years ago, and closing at 4:30 was the solution," she said. The office also used to be open on Saturdays "years and years ago," which may be an option to revisit, she said.
Another possibility is staggering shifts among staff so the office can remain open longer, but Gilkey-Breeden is wary about that approach.
"When you stagger your work force, you make [it] weak and inefficient," she said. When fewer employees are in the office, she said, it takes longer to process work and help customers.
Gilkey-Breeden said she was unaware that people were concerned about the hours of operation. The office is staffed to operate under the current hours, and if shifts are moved around "it's going to affect customer service," she said.
However, she said she'll approach the issue with "an open mind."
Burke is hoping to gather information from surrounding municipalities, banks and other private institutions, and see how they operate, he said.
"We're trying to work with the existing staffing, so there'll a minimum impact to the town's budget," he said.
Aware that Front Royal is a commuter community, Burke wants to arrive at a solution to "meet customer needs."