IRON RIVER—What is a better way to plan a 40-hour work week? Five eight-hour days or four 10-hour days?
The debate was renewed during the Iron County Road Commission’s April 8 regular meeting.
The Road Commission has worked a four-day week for many years. Monday through Thursday, everyone starts at 6 a.m. and works until 4 p.m. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, everybody is off—both the office crew and road crews.
But in a world where most people are used to a five-day work week, that can lead to problems, especially on Fridays.
Last year, a delivery company had been told several times the Road Commission garage was closed on Fridays. Its drivers tried to drop off cargo on a Friday, anyway, and found nobody around. In the end, the delivery truck took its cargo all the way back to Milwaukee.
“We ended up paying somebody overtime to go out and unload something,” Superintendent Doug Tomasoski said. He also noted that the county’s 911 and dispatch offices have several numbers they can call in an emergency. “I get calls all summer long—trees down or whatever.”
Nearly all calls from the general public, he said, are about problems with the roads. “If it’s an emergency, they call dispatch, and dispatch gets a hold of us.”
The four-day schedule has been in effect for about 20 years. “All the while I’ve been here,” said Tomasoski.
Board Chairman Dan Germic said he thinks having the office closed on Fridays is “counterproductive” to serving the county’s residents He asked Tomasoski about having procedures in place to make sure the Road Commission’s business is still getting done. “Is the community best served by having the office closed on Friday?”
Board Member Charles Battan said there are more issues than that truck delivery. “There were trees down and so on. You talk about calling 911 or whatever—you call those numbers, and you can’t get ahold of anybody.
“Somebody should be accountable on a Friday. Somebody should be available. Not call everybody and nobody answers the phone. I don’t think that’s the way for a place to run.”
He said a list of people who can be contacted in an emergency should be prepared every Friday.
Commissioner Ernest Schmidt tried to widen the discussion into having crews mow roadside weeds five days a week, which, he said, is permitted by the union contract. “We run out of time every year. We’re not able to hit every township in a timely fashion.”
He suggested a staggered shift so the mowers can be out five days a week. But others said that would require foremen or a mechanic to also be on duty in case of mechanical problems.
Attorney Mark Tousignant said the Road Commission went to its 4-by-10 schedule at a time when it was doing a lot of heavy construction: It allowed the men to stay on the job longer and be more productive. The office staff also went to a four-day week.
“Are you still into that kind of construction,” Tousignant asked, “where four 10s are more productive than five eights? That’s the question you have to ask yourself.”
He also said the union contract limits what the Road Commission can do—until it runs out at the end of this year.
Germic said many residents don’t know the Road Commission is closed on Fridays, and there need to be provisions to handle Friday emergencies. “As a manager, you’ve got to make sure those things are in place—however you want to do it.”
He suggested that shifts be staggered so that some work on Fridays and get the following Monday off. That way, the three-day weekends could be preserved.
Battan noted that the Road Commission has somebody on call during winter. “I don’t see why we can’t do it right through summer. That way, we wouldn’t run into these problems.”
“Somebody should be here in case something happens,” said Commissioner Joe Sabol. ”That’s what we’re talking about.” Tomasoski was asked to review the policy and report back at the May meeting.