Starting the beginning of this year, Bingen city hall is no longer open for business on Mondays.
In addition to approving most of the 2012 budget, during its last meeting of 2011 on Dec. 20, the Bingen city council approved closure of the offices on Mondays for the forseeable future.
The shuttering of the city hall office was in response to a Dec. 15 memorandum to the city council from Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes that requested authorization for the Monday shutdown. The office will still be open Tuesday through Friday and will keep its regular hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. With the exception of the week of Thanksgiving, city hall will remain open four days a week regardless of whether or not a holiday falls on that week. According to a press release issued by Barnes on Dec. 29, the public works offices will remain open on Mondays and that "a drop box for utility payments is available at the front door of city hall."
The primary reason for the closure was a cost-saving measure for the city due to the need for budget cuts. Some of the savings come from City Administrator Jan Brending getting reduced from full to three-quarter time as a result of the office being closed a day. Money will also be saved with the reduction of overhead since gas, water, and electric will be used very little while the city hall offices are closed.
Despite the office being only open four days instead of five, Barnes anticipates that the new schedule will be more efficient in serving customers since Brending and Deputy Clerk Dena Riggleman will be present in the office at the same time. This will reduce temporary closures of the office that currently occur when only one staff member is present and has to leave to go to lunch, the post office, or has an emergency.
City officials had to choose whether to close city hall on Friday or Monday and decided on Monday for a number of reasons. Brending stated during the Dec. 20 meeting that the office receives more foot traffic on Friday than Monday because people are trying to finish up their business before the weekend. Brending also said that many government entities she deals with have their employees take mandated furloughs on Mondays, so it made logistical sense for city hall to be closed on the same day.
Council member Maria Perez suggested that if a Monday closure ended up not working out, the city could change its mind and close on Fridays instead. Barnes agreed that this was certainly possible.
The Monday Bingen city hall closure arrives at the same time as the shutdown of the West End Services desk in the Pioneer Center, which also closed down due to budgetary constraints. Its last day of operation was on Dec. 30 and the desk will be closed indefinitely.