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Since the beginning of the year, the Crawford County Judicial Complex in English is also open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Photo By Chris Adams

Courthouse office hours must be consistent

January 28, 2015
For years, persons who went to the Crawford County Judicial Complex on a Wednesday to take care of business at the majority of the offices learned that they would have to return the next day, as the offices were closed. While most county residents knew this and adjusted their schedules, out-of-county persons often would make the drive to English, only to leave upset.

The county board of commissioners, at its Dec. 30 meeting, voted unanimously for those offices to be open on Wednesdays. Time will tell if the change was needed, as the Clerk's Office waited on only two members of the public on each of the first two Wednesdays it was open and none last Wednesday.

What is known, however, is, if the purpose of the change — to better serve the public and to make sure they don't leave frustrated because the office they needed to do business with was closed — is met, then all of the offices — even the ones that already were open part of the day on Wednesdays — must follow the new schedule.

A person who comes to the courthouse to find every office open except the one they need is going to be just as upset, if not more so, than a person who finds all of the offices closed. At the very least, they are going to be particularly upset with the closed office.

To their credit, the commissioners added the Wednesday hours — the same 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule as on Mondays and Fridays — without changing the hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the courthouse is open an additional two hours, until 6 p.m., to accommodate residents who work out of town.

"That's the only way I would propose the motion is to leave the hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays as they are," District 3 Commissioner Jim Schultz, who made the motion to be open on Wednesdays, said at the meeting.

Randy Gilmore, who represents District 2, agreed.

"I do believe that Tuesday evening and Thursday evening hours are important because a lot of people can't get here (during the day)," he said.

While full-time employees still are limited to 36 hours per week, the additional hours — the courthouse is now open 44 hours each week — shouldn't present much of a challenge. The elected officials just need to stagger their employees' schedules. For some, that may mean getting a Friday or Monday off instead of a Wednesday, which, for most, would be welcomed, as it would give them a three-day weekend.

Smaller offices, like those of the surveyor (which only has one employee other than the surveyor, who, as a part-time official, is in the office one day per week), assessor (two office workers) and recorder (two office workers), may have to approach the county council for funding for part-time help to cover the additional hours, especially when someone is on vacation. Another option would be for the council to fund a floater position that could help out where needed. However, during a time when the council is looking to keep spending in check, if not cut it, it will be interesting to see how such requests will be handled.

The least appealing option would be for officeholders with smaller staffs who can't have their offices open on a Wednesday to make arrangements with those with more employees so that the smaller offices can post a sign on their door, directing the public to another office for assistance.

Gilmore said it best at the Dec. 30 meeting, when he admitted that it will be a "work in progress" and asked that everyone give the change some time.

For it to work, however, all of the offices must have consistent hours. How we get there is up for debate. What isn't, though, is for everybody to be on the same page.

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