Marshfield aldermen make summer hours pilot program permanent
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – Without a recommendation from city government officials, Marshfield aldermen are making a summer hours pilot program permanent. With Aldermen Ed Wagner and Peter Hendler dissenting, the common council voted 8-2 on Sept. 14 in favor of closing city hall at noon on Fridays moving forward.
The decision was made during a review of how the reduced-hours format worked during a one-month period – Aug.13 and Sept. 3 – and it came without a recommendation from City Administrator Steve Barg.
“I came to the Council just to really report on what the four-week trial period produced,” Barg said during a post-council news conference the following day. “The council, after talking about the pros and cons of that, suddenly realized that they were basically supportive. And then they went one step further. They said, ‘Steve, are you asking to do this for next summer?’ And I said, ‘Not yet. I just wanted to give you the report, but that is where I will go if you’re interested.’ And they went beyond that to say let’s do it all year round.”
Like he did back in July, Alderman Ed Wagner voted against the idea.
“I guess I’m going to put on my black hat and be the villain again”, Wagner said prior to his “no” vote.
“In case you’re forgetting, we’re in the customer service business. We’re supposed to be here for the customers when and where they want us. I would like to see us return to a customer service ethic,” he added.
Wagner joined Alderman Peter Hendler in voting “no”.
Barg told the council city staff appreciated having those four Friday afternoons away from work, since it allowed many to get a head start on their final summer weekends. And he said the option did have a positive impact on employee morale.
“We want to be an employer of choice,” he said. “And there are times when our employees understand it’s difficult for us to give them the wages and benefits that they’d like to see because we have some financial challenges. This was a great idea, as a no-cost benefit to our staff during the summer. And to add to that, I think people here really appreciated it. I’ve heard some great feedback. They really appreciated you, as a Council, saying you would be willing to do that trial period. You can’t imagine how that helped morale here, that you would go into those waters on their behalf to give them that break, as long as they were meeting all the requirements of working the 40 hours and getting their work done.”
During the four Fridays of the summer pilot program, Barg noted City Hall cameras observed 43 vehicles in the front parking lot. 30 people walked up to the door, while 10 did not approach the front door and three others used the drop box outside the front entrance. Barg also said there were 77 incoming telephone calls. Of those, 31 (40 percent) were made to the city’s main number (715-486-2000). The balance of the calls was placed directly to a particular department.
Barg said city hall will continue its regular hours of 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Thursday.
Possible taxi fare increase
Meanwhile, the common council reviewed, but took no action on, a possible increase in certain taxi fares.
Barg is suggesting the council consider increasing the reduced-fare rate for seniors, children and the disabled from $2.85 to $3.00.
City officials are targeting late October for a public hearing, likely during the Oct. 26 common council meeting. Taxi fares were last increased in 2018.
The majority of the shared-ride taxi service in the city is paid for through state and federal grants. The fees that users are charged covers a smaller portion. But, Barg says there is also a portion covered through tax levy funds in the annual city budget.
If approved, the higher fares would take effect Jan. 1.