Council could consider shorter city hall hours

By John Dilmore

The Atlanta City Council could consider shortened office hours for city hall during an upcoming meeting after the city manager raised the possibility last week.
The idea was floated during City Manager David Cockrell’s report to the council near the end of the regular April 17 meeting. Basically, city hall staff -- who are scheduled to get off work at 5 p.m. -- are hard-pressed to leave on time while the office’s official closing time is 5 p.m., Cockrell said.
“Our staff gets off at five,” Cockrell said. “The office closes at five. That’s kind of a difficult thing, because they’ve got to count out a drawer.”
City hall office hours are now 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but were previously 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The old hours created a problem at the beginning of the day, in which staff would, “report to work at eight, and have a line out there. They couldn’t even balance out their drawers,” Cockrell said. 
A switch to the current 8:30 opening time helped address that and worked out, “really well customer service-wise,” he added.
To now create more breathing room at the end of the workday, Cockrell said he’d like to consider making a 15-minute adjustment.
“That would be 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.,” he told the council. “It’s through the lunch hour – that’s eight hours and 15 minutes. 
“We staff it to where the lunch breaks are open. If we went from 8:30 to 4:30, that would be a full eight hours of customer service. But we’re not even really proposing that.”
Cockrell pointed out that on days when large numbers of residents are on the verge of having utility services disconnected, the bottleneck of business as 5 p.m. approaches is especially challenging.
“People know, on certain days, that they’re fixing to get penalized,” he said. “So, the same people who’ve delayed paying delay even coming up here until the very last minute, and we’ll literally have people running for the door at 4:58, lining up in here to not be exposed (to penalties).”
That led to a discussion about customers that do have services cut off, then immediately have to be reconnected by city staff after the appropriate penalties and fees have been paid. 
Told by city staff that a high percentage of these customers are repeat offenders, Mayor Keith Crow expressed a desire to consider, in the future, making the financial penalty for being disconnected and reconnected higher.
“That’s manpower, that’s dollars to us,” Crow said of that process.

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