By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Their choice: A workforce reduction or a 20 percent cutback in hours for all employees.
The result was unanimous: All 13 staffers in the planning department voted to accept a 32-hour workweek instead of losing a colleague, according to DCD Assistant Director Stacie Hoskins.
“We have made a lot of cuts and lost a lot of people,” she said.
“In 2008, we had 25 people,” Hoskins added.
“If we lost anyone else, it would seriously impact what we have to do.”
After Jan. 1, all DCD employees will work 32-hour weeks and the office, located in the QFC plaza at 621 Sheridan St., will be closed Fridays.
The office will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday with coaching services, permit technicians and building inspectors available at staggered times.
All of the employees, including DCD Director Carl Smith who was hired in May 2012, will be cut back.
Smith was hired at $76,995 per year and now will be paid $63,456.
Hoskins said that the cumulative salary reduction will save the county $200,000 a year.
“This will be very challenging for us,” Hoskins said.
“We will have less time to do our jobs. When the office is closed we won't be inside working.”
One difference is that DCD staff members will take turns providing receptionist service, which is also a mixed blessing, according to Hoskins.
Those coming in to ask a quick question might have it answered on the spot because of the skilled personnel at the reception desk, but this means that working customer service will slow the productivity of the skilled staff, she said.
The DCD deals with land use policy and regulations, reviews building and land use permit applications and coordinates regulatory responsibility with other county departments and state and federal agencies.
Jefferson County Commissioner John Austin said the Friday closure will not only affect the public but also will have a ripple effect on county government.
“If you call for information on Thursday afternoon that means you won't be able to get the answer until Monday,” he said.
“It also means that other branches of county government will be less efficient,” Ausgtin added.
“If I have a question about a grant or long-range planning on Thursday afternoon, it will also have to wait until Monday.”
Austin lauded the vote by the DCD staff.
“It showed a lot of team spirit for the staff members to reduce their hours rather than see a fellow staff member be let go,” he said.
Hoskins said that many of the staff members have been working together for 10 years or more.
“When you lose $1,000 a month, you wonder where you are going to make it up,” said staff member Frank Beskin.
“You may try to get a part-time job, but they are hard to find in this economy,” he added.
Several staffers said they appreciated the early warning of the cuts so they could prepare.
They all cut back on holiday gifts and one refinanced her house to decrease her monthly payments.
The office will reopen on Fridays and restore the salaries if permit activity picks up, both Austin and Hoskins said.
For more information go to www.co.jefferson.wa.us/commdevelopment, write firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-379-4450 during office hours.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.