Supervisor Again Disputes Savings of Friday Closures : Government: Stanton says revised report on work plan still too high. Contention could bring board fight Tuesday.


County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton on Wednesday launched an attack on a revised staff report that cites cost savings from the county work plan that shuts down most county offices every other Friday.

"It's the old street shuffle," Stanton said. "They cloud the issues. When I find one deficiency in the report, they patch it up and open three others."

It is the second time in less than a month that Stanton has criticized the county administrator's office for releasing what he considers a misleading report that overestimates the cost savings of the 22-month-old work program.

Initially, County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider submitted a report to the Board of Supervisors recommending that the program be continued because it saved the county as much as $1 million a year in utility costs, custodial services, overtime expenditures and financial incentives to comply with state-mandated ridership programs.

Stanton challenged some of the findings in the report and suggested that some of the numbers, such as the utility savings, were inflated. Schneider agreed that the supervisor raised some legitimate issues and revised the report.

The new staff report released this week contends that the work plan saves the county about $271,000.

But Stanton said that estimate is still too high.

He said the county staff failed to calculate the additional costs incurred because of an increase in sick leave under the program. He also questioned the savings from complying with the ride-share program, which encourages county workers to car-pool. He asserted that the work program does not save any money and may actually cost the county $500,000.

Schneider defended the report Wednesday, saying he and his staff "made a good-faith effort to identify all the issues and present the board with the facts and pros and cons of continuing or discontinuing the plan."

"I stand by the recommendations in the report," he said.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide whether to continue the work plan at Tuesday's board meeting.

Under the work plan, nearly three dozen county facilities, which offer the public a range of services from welfare assistance and health care to building permits and tax collection, are closed every other Friday. All of the offices are open longer during the week to make up for the Friday shutdowns.

Stanton's position on the work plan is unpopular with some county officials and many county workers. At least one board member who is supportive of the work plan said he intends to defend it against any challenge from Stanton.

"There is a morale problem for our troops and the troops are the main interest and concern for Tom Riley," said Board Chairman Thomas F. Riley, a retired U.S. Marine general. "I think we are lucky to have the talent we have. I'm very proud of the county staff and I think they have made a major effort to respond to all of us. I don't think you can fault them for that."

Supervisor William G. Steiner said he is still studying the work plan but will be looking to see if there is a way to provide adequate public access to county facilities while also offering county employees a flexible work schedule.

Stanton said he does not oppose flexible schedules but is adamant that "we should be open five days a week. In all service industries in the private sector the trend is not to close your doors, the trend is to be more serviceable. In government the trend is the other way around."

Supervisors Gaddi H. Vasquez said he is reviewing the plan to determine whether it has met its goals of providing adequate service to the public while saving taxpayer money. Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Several weeks ago, Wieder said she supported continuing the work plan.

Nick Berardino, a spokesman for the Orange County Employees Assn., said county workers overwhelmingly support the plan.

"The employees are very concerned and dedicated to providing quality service to Orange County. That's been always our number one concern," he said. "We don't think (the plan) has in any way impacted the service to the citizens."

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