Resolution 184-16, which is scheduled to be voted on at Thursday night’s Mayor & Council meeting, will make a four-day workweek permanent for departments at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex. Regular business hours for Borough Hall are from 8:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; this has Borough Hall open 40 hours a week for residents.
Originally put into place for the summer months in 2013, the hours were meant to give residents more of an opportunity to conduct borough business in the morning before 8:30 a.m. and in the evening after 5 p.m. on certain days. In the last three years it has become a perk for those who work at Borough Hall to have a three-day weekend while offering resident less access to their government.
In 2013, Borough Hall was open five days a week for a total of 47 hours with Tuesdays and Thursdays open from 7:30 a.m. till 7 o’clock at night and the remaining days having regular hours of operation. The staff at Borough Hall made scheduling arrangements amongst themselves to still work their regular 35 hours while being able to provide services to residents.
The following year, summer hours were cut by 10 hours and open for only 37½ hours with Borough Hall closed on Fridays. That schedule had offices open from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 8:30 a.m. till 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Late evening hours went from two nights to one night but early hours allowed residents to come in at 8 in the morning.
In 2015, the late evening moved from Thursday to Monday and the rest of the four-day week had Borough Hall open from 8:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. Fridays were still closed during the summer.
In the last three years it has become a perk for those who work at Borough Hall to have a three-day weekend while offering resident less access to their government.”
Now council is set to decide on whether to make summer hours permanent. There are no details in the actual resolution as to what the new hours will be but it is important to have such information on the record as part of the resolution. Even though Borough Hall will be open till 5:30 p.m., most residents work out-of-town and do not get home till after that time.
Additionally, any changes in hours of operation, especially if it includes closing offices on Fridays will impact everything from the timeline in which agenda items are to be submitted to how long someone will have to wait to get a response to an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request. Currently, there is a policy regarding agenda items for Mayor & Council meetings that gives members of the governing body until the Friday before the week of a meeting to submit any items that want on the agenda. This will either push that deadline till Thursday or the Monday before a meeting. The Friday closed scenario will also delay the time limit when an OPRA request would be fulfilled. New Jersey state law currently gives a government agency seven (7) business days by which to respond to an OPRA request. To give an example, if an OPRA is submitted on a Friday during a regular workweek under regular conditions, say July 22nd, Borough Hall would have until July 26th to respond. With summer hours, the municipality would have until August 4th. There are other instance where closing the office on Fridays would impact residents – everything from garage sales to permits to paying taxes or fees to having simple questions answered over the phone.
Other departments in the borough, such as the police department (which is open 24 hours a day seven days a week), the municipal court, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the library, and the Casano Center are all not affected and – so far – will be open five days a week. Additionally, it appears that the Borough Tax Assessor will have her office open on Fridays even though the office is located inside Borough Hall.
Another issue with the proposed resolution is that it provides no details on what times and days will be changed. This is not the first time that issues with providing summer hour related matters have been occurred. In 2015, in violation of the Agreement between the Borough of Roselle Park and the Roselle Park Clerical Group, a resolution was not put on the agenda to memorialize summer hours. Doreen Cali, the Borough Clerk, refused to create the resolution, claiming that discussion of the summer hours that was placed in the official minutes was the formal resolution. It was not until a news article was published on this (link) that the Borough Clerk had a formal resolution put on the record and approved by council.
The information regarding the resolution used for this article was obtained from Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas “Thos” Shipley’s council website, particularly the section titled Pre-Agendas (link). Since taking office this year, the councilman – in order to provide residents with transparency in municipal matters – has published copies of agendas and agenda-related items at least three days before such meetings. This is part of his Agenda Reform that gives residents more information so they can come to a meeting knowing – and possibly being able to provide input – before issues are decided on and enacted by the governing body. Currently, residents do not know what is on an agenda until the night of a meeting right before it starts.
The next Mayor & Council meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night, July 21st, at 7 p.m. in council chambers of the Roselle Park Municipal Complex. The complex is located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.
Copies of tomorrow night’s agenda and agenda-related items are available at Councilman Shipley’s website (link) and below: