Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reopening Kitsap’s Government For Business Five Days a Week

Now that Rob Gelder and Charlotte Garrido have been re-elected as County Commissioners by comfortable margins, it’s time to turn our attention to what issues the commissioners need to address moving forward.

The number one issue as we see it is reopening the County administration building for business five days a week. As citizens, we pay for full time government — not for 80 percent of it. This is an issue that was brought up repeatedly in both County Commissioner primary, and general election debate forums. All the candidates at the time stated they could see the need for it. The big question was how to pay for it. It appears Gelder and Garrido have since flip-flopped on that issue.

Numerous good suggestions on how to accomplish it were brought forward during those forums, including using flextime; looking at the busiest hours, and adjusting staffing levels so they were minimal during known slow periods and adding people when the workload was known to be heavier; having some people who are currently off on Friday work, while, allowing them to be off Monday instead; as well as just diverting the money to pay the cost of being open from other, less critical budget items.

Back in September, the Homebuilders Association (HBA) Board of Directors voted to put together a petition asking the Commissioners to return the Department of Community Development (DCD), the County Assessor, and the County Auditor’s offices back to five days a week of full public access.

During the HBA’s candidate interview process (in which, as a member of the HBA’s Government Affairs Committee, I participated), and after several meetings with the Commissioners, it became abundantly clear they would refuse to budget for full service to the community, or adjust staffing levels to accommodate it. They appeared to be of the opinion that full service to the citizens is just not necessary — or desired — by business owners and community leaders. It has also been reported that both County Assessor Jim Avery and County Auditor Walt Washington have each been given the budget to be open full-time, but have said that they don’t support a return to five days a week of public service either.

Avery has told the Kitsap Association of Realtors Executive Officer Mike Eliason, as well as the HBA Executive Vice President Teresa Osinski, that no one has complained to him about his office being closed on Fridays. However, I specifically remember having that discussion with Avery myself.

Commissioner Gelder has also commented more than once that the title companies don’t want the County open on Fridays because they don’t have the staff to handle transactions five days a week. That’s simply not true. I don’t know who Gelder talked to, but the HBA went to great lengths to survey local title companies, and found just the opposite to be the case.

So why is this important? The Realtors and Builders main concern is transaction closing time frames. A transaction that is signed around on Wednesday won’t be recorded until the following Monday at the earliest, but usually Tuesday. It takes at least another day, and sometimes two, for the recorded paperwork to be conveyed back to the title companies, meaning the transaction can’t disperse until at least Thursday or Friday of the following week. That means buyers can’t move in, and no one gets paid for an additional week because of the Friday closure.

But they aren’t the only ones being inconvenienced. When I was campaigning for Commissioner, I would spend about two hours on Friday in front of the administration building handling out campaign literature to the people who had come — sometimes from as far away as Bainbridge Island, Kingston, and Hansville — to do their particular business with the County. They may have wanted to register to vote, register a vehicle, pay their taxes, get a permit for something, or a myriad of other things.

How busy was it? Well, in spite of the closure, the hot dog vendor in front of the building was open, and the number of people doing business with him must have made it worth his time. I know in the two hours I was there, I would hand out at least 50 flyers to people who were either angry, or disappointed they had come all that way to Port Orchard, only to find they would be forced to return home, and make another trip. For some, this presented a problem, because of work schedules. At $4 a gallon for gas, and an hour’s time from North Kitsap, this isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s an unnecessary personal expense for taxpayers.

But what I find most disturbing is the elitist attitude of Gelder and Garrido who don’t seem to believe being open five days a week is necessary at all. In a forum I attended, one of them stated that County employees liked the three-day weekends, and didn’t want that to change back. I’m sorry, but that’s a blatant case of the tail wagging the dog. County employees work for us — the taxpayers — not the other way around. It’s what we want that matters.

It’s time the commissioners got that message. If you agree, call them at (360) 337-7146. You’ll probably have to leave a message, but you’ll know by their actions if what you have to say matters to them.

1 comment:

  1. Larry E Croix5:45 AM

    One of the dumbest things the county has done was the 4 day work week. As I am sure you know that the cost to return to 5 days without reducing head count would be very large. I have no hope for these people who seem to think they are running a jobs program.

    I would bet that some people classified as nonexempt are working more than 32 hours a week. If so stand by for a high dollar law suit that is sure to come.