State Department of Commerce employees were treated to pastries Tuesday morning and the opportunity to tell Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. what they thought of the new four-day workweek that had begun a day earlier.
Customers of government services have already started showing up earlier in the day at some state offices to take advantage of the extra hours that agencies are operating Mondays through Thursdays under the new schedule, which goes from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
But the real test will come Friday, when the doors will be locked at state offices that handle a long list of services, including driver's license renewals, motor-vehicle registrations, hunting licenses and the sale of Utah park maps.
Information about offices that are affected is available at Huntsman's Web site, www.utah.governor.gov, or by calling a special "Working 4 Utah" hotline set up in his office, at 801-538-1808.
Many state services are also available online anytime, through the state's Web site at www.utah.gov. Already, less than half of the motor-vehicle renewals in Utah are done in person, according to state Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts.
Roberts said some Division of Motor Vehicles offices saw a steady flow of customers throughout the first 10-hour workday Monday. "Managers just expected it to be kind of dead until 9 o'clock or so, but it was busy," he said.
And while the driver license division office in West Valley City was already open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., even before the new schedule took effect, it was busier than usual Monday, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Jeff Nigbur said.
"When I got there in the morning, the line was out the door," Nigbur said. On Monday, he said the office handled 688 customers, up from the typical 500 in a day. Friday, of course, will be a different story, nowthat all of the division offices will be closed.
The governor proposed the switch earlier this summer as a way to cut the state's energy usage and save on utility costs. Shutting down most or all of the offices in some 1,000 state buildings on Fridays is expected to save taxpayers about $3 million annually.
Just about everyone the governor talked to during his Commerce Department tour was upbeat about the chance to take Fridays off, although several noted challenges in getting to work earlier on public transportation and in adjusting their child-care arrangements.
Huntsman on Tuesday spent about an hour pushing a cartload of treats through the department's offices at the Heber M. Wells Building in downtown Salt Lake City, asking employees how they were adjusting to the longer hours.
"It was a reaffirmation that people largely like the new schedule," the governor told the group of reporters, photographers and television cameras that trailed him throughout the building.
Janet Collings, a receptionist in the department's consumer-protection office, told Huntsman that the four-day workweek "sounds like a good idea. I guess we'll have to find out how it works out."
Collings said after her brief visit with Huntsman that his coming to her office "shows he's interested in what we think." She said the longer workdays will take some getting used to, since employees are working an extra two hours a day.
Derek Dalton, who was at the department offices Tuesday morning to deal with an issue pertaining to his business, said he was unaware of the new four-day schedule. But, he said, it wouldn't have bothered him if he had come on Friday and found the offices closed.
"Businesses are open certain times," Dalton said. "You've got to abide by that."Francine Giani, the department's executive director, said she and other employees will be on hand Friday to let the public know why the offices are closed. Giani herself purchased the pastries that were handed out Tuesday and plans to offer employees energy drinks on Wednesday.
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