By Kathi Bliss
After concerns rose recently about non-elected officials closing their offices during regular business hours, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court has begun eyeing the possibility of changing employee office hours as a matter of policy.
Currently, Caldwell County offices are generally open from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., allowing for a 37.5-hour work week for employees. However, County Judge Tom Bonn said he believes county employees should “give taxpayers a full 40 hours per week.”
Historically, Bonn said, it was understood that employees worked a 37.5-hour week because employee salaries were considered to be so low. However, he said, now that the Court has taken steps to increase employee salaries, he expects employees to begin working a 40-hour week.
Members of the Court engaged in extensive discussion about changing office hours as a matter of policy, and whether it would be better to begin the workday at 8 a.m. or reduce lunch times to half an hour. However, in the end, because County policy cannot dictate hours for an elected official, the Commissioners voted to allow the elected officials to set office hours, provided all employees are routinely working a 40-hour week.
County Treasurer Lori Rangel cautioned the Court that moving to a 40-hour week could open the possibility for an increase in overtime expenses as employees are needed to stay later or come in earlier. However, the Commissioners suggested that workloads could and should be managed in such a way that overtime was not accrued by employees.
The Court also voted to submit a number of road projects to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for potential funding by the Texas Department of Transportation.
In general, the suggested projects focus on regional mobility, and in specific increasing the user-friendliness of Highway 80 between Luling and San Marcos. The projects propsed would add shoulders to most of the nearly 30-mile stretch, as well as adding turn lanes and increasing the road to four lanes throughout Caldwell County.
If the projects are approved and recommended by CAMPO, they will be funded by the State of Texas, not by local funding.
In other business, under a recommendation from Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey, speaking on behalf of the Caldwell County Fire Chief’s Association, the Commissioners opted to instate an outdoor burning ban.
They also heard information from Human Resources Director Deborah Kortan regarding the cost of employee insurance for the coming fiscal year. Insurance costs are expected to rise around 8.8 percent, and the County will continue to fund employee coverage, as well as a portion of coverage for dependents.
In brief news:
The County paid bills in the amount of $325,722.53.
They approved a resolution conveying the SH 130 Wetland Mitigation site near the southwest corner of North Highway 183 and Plum Creek from the Texas Department of Transportation to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust.
The Court heard departmental reports from Building Maintenance, Emergency Management, Environmental Investigations, Human Resources and the Informational Technology (IT) department.
The Court recognized several members of area 4H clubs for a variety of achievements throughout the summer.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Center at the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart.