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County nixes 4:30 p.m. closing idea

Mower County's customer-service counters will remain open until 5 p.m. during weekdays.

On Tuesday, the Mower County Board voted unanimously to keep the current work hours for county employees at the downtown Austin courthouse and its other customer-service areas, such as for health and human services at Oak Park Mall.

Some county employees had asked the board to end the work day at 4:30 p.m. by reducing their lunch hour to 30 minutes.

State employees in the courthouse's court administration areas are done at 4:30 p.m.

Board member David Hillier, who is on the county's personnel committee, said he wanted to leave the courthouse open from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. to keep that option for the public to do business there.


Although staff says the courthouse hallways typically don't have many customers during that time, it's a good chance for county employees to get organized and prepare for the next day, said Tim Gabrielson, a fellow board member on the personnel committee.

Gabrielson also didn't want the lunch hour to drop to 30 minutes because that wouldn't leave employees much time to get something to eat. The courthouse's basement break room also isn't big enough for the likely increase in employees from a shorter lunch hour, he said.

It's a hard decision, Gabrielson said, because it'd be nice to be done early, but the county employees are there for the constituents.

County customer-service counters are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., including during the lunch hour.

County officials have been mulling the idea since the board first discussed the idea in November. Board members had planned to make a decision by the following month, but the matter has been delayed.

A county study last year found that 59 of the 87 counties in Minnesota have customer-service hours that run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fourteen counties, including Mower, run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Earlier this year, Mower County also tried unsuccessfully at the legislature to get approval on switching to a four-day work week for many of its employees to save money, such as with utility costs.

Office hours would have been extended by two hours, making the work day run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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