New courthouse hours questioned

New courthouse hours questioned
One week before the new Dale County Courthouse hours were set to begin, questions about the change were brought before the Dale County Commission.

Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting asked the commission at the meeting July 10 to reconsider the decision that had been made in April to change the courthouse county office hours to a 10-hour, four days a week schedule.

Beginning Wednesday, July 18, the county offices at the county administration building are open from 6 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and closed on Fridays.

The county offices at the Courthouse are open from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and closed Friday. State offices in those buildings are not part of the county office hour changes

The tag office in the Dale County Courthouse will be open for business from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and closed on Fridays.

The tag office operates three satellite offices in the county for the convenience of citizens. The tag office in Daleville is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., the Ariton tag office is open Mondays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and the tag office in Pinckard is open Tuesdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The Dale County Commission voted April 10 to allow most county offices to operate on a four-days-a- week schedule.

Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship said that the county employees had been polled about their preference and nearly 100 percent wanted to make the change.

The commission had previously voted to allow the Dale County Road and Bridge Department to work extended hours for a four-day work week and it was a positive move, Blankenship said.

Dale County Engineer Derek Brewer agreed. “The four-day work week has cut down on absenteeism because it gives our employees the opportunity to schedule personal appointments on their off day,” Brewer said. “It also means more productivity on work sites because workers have more hours to get the job done each day.

Citizens will also benefit from the new hours, Blankenship said. “We’re seeing a lot of benefits for it for people who work. It gives them an option to come to the court house or do things before they come to work and after they get off work.”

Bunting told the commissioners that he was speaking on behalf of the area mayors, the Ozark Chamber of Commerce and most of the downtown merchants in asking them to reconsider the decision to close county offices Fridays.

“That’s the city of Ozark’s best revenue day for restaurants downtown,” Bunting said. “To me (county offices) are no different than a retail store.

“It is a service to the people in the community and that’s what you are here for,” Bunting told the commissioners. “And that’s what everyone in the courthouse is there for—to serve the people of Dale County.

“I know you are trying to help the people who work in (the county offices) but I guarantee that if one of them quits tomorrow, I guarantee that you’d have 50 applications for that job,” Bunting said. “You’d have plenty of people wanting to work if (current employees) didn’t want to work those jobs.”

The Ozark City Council signed a resolution at the June 19 meeting asking the county to reconsider the decision to close offices Friday. “Negative impact” on people who typically use Fridays as a day to transact public business with the Revenue Commission and Probate Office and the fact that closing on Fridays would not save money on utilities because the state offices on the second, third and basement floors of the courthouse would continue to be open were among the reasons that the resolution cited.

“The four-day work week presents a unique circumstance as the county takes 12 holidays, 10 of which fall on Mondays,” according to the resolution. “During the weeks of holidays, the county offices at the courthouse would be open for public business on only three days, hereby further inconveniencing the public.”

The resolution asked the commission to reconsider its decision or as an alternative, rearrange employee work schedules so that county offices would remain open Fridays.

At the commission meeting July 10, Bunting asked the commission to also think about changing the closed-for-business day to Mondays. “That’s the slowest day most of the businesses say,” he said.

Bunting said that closing the tag office on Fridays might prompt some of the military personnel from Fort Rucker to buy their tags in neighboring counties that do have offices open Fridays.

“All military addresses on Fort Rucker are located in Dale County and they must register in Dale County,” said Dale County Revenue Commissioner Eleanor Outlaw. “It is against the law to register (vehicle tags) outside of the county where a person lives.

“An Alabama Attorney General's opinion was sent out many years ago (about the issue) and if anyone tries to renew with a copy of a previous receipt or title from another county, they are required to show proof of their Dale County address with a current bill or lease agreement,” Outlaw explained. “We also have access to the county maps in the tag office to verify residence location.”

“Think of serving the soldiers. Think about what your responsibility is in serving the people of Ozark, all the people of Dale County,” Bunting told the commissioners. “It affects all the mayors in all the towns when you close the courthouse and it impacts the soldiers at Fort Rucker.”

Blankenship told Bunting that after two months of publicizing the new hours and less than a week before the new hours were to be implemented, it was not feasible to halt the process. He reminded Bunting that

when the commission voted in April to change the hours, they had done so with the understanding that they will monitor and review the impact of the decision.

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Tuesday, July 24, at the government building in Ozark. A work session begins at 10 a.m. and is followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

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