MH councilman seeks feedback on city’s hours of operation

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 8, 2017

File photo

MADISON HEIGHTS — City buildings in Madison Heights are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and closed daily from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for lunch. For many residents, these hours may not work well with their busy work schedules. So what should they do if they have a pressing matter that needs to be resolved?

Sometimes there are online alternatives, but Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss knows that doesn’t always work. Sometimes face-to-face dealings are best. At the City Council meeting July 24, Bliss shared his concern that the city’s hours of operation may be limiting opportunities for residents to use city services. He wondered if there might be a way to keep the buildings open on certain days during non-business hours, perhaps using a skeleton crew or some other arrangement. 

Nothing has been formally proposed at this point, but Bliss has already set up a short online survey to collect feedback on the subject at goo.gl/forms/4Bc0BuyLg2vWulf02.

Residents can also tell Bliss how the city’s current hours work for them by emailing him at markbliss@madison-heights.org or by calling him at (248) 274-4673.

“I’d like to ask our citizens to tell me how satisfied they are with our current hours, as well as give me some feedback on what extended hours possibilities would work best for them,” Bliss said. “Their feedback, as well as our staff analysis of the initiative, will help determine what the final proposal looks like, so it’s very important that everyone weighs in.

“While we’ve made every effort to get many services online, there will never be a real substitute to having your questions answered face to face. And while our office hours are sufficient, we’re still leaving people out, and that’s a problem that needs to be solved,” he said. “Even if it’s just a couple days a month of extended hours, it could make a big difference.”

Bliss said that opening City Hall outside of standard business hours would give residents who can’t make it during a workday the chance to get face-to-face services, like dog licenses, construction permits and absentee ballot applications, from divisions like the City Clerk’s Office, the Department of Public Services, the Recreation Department and others.

“We’d also be able to expand the hours of our historical museum (the Heritage Rooms) that’s also located inside City Hall,” Bliss said.

He noted that Plymouth Township created a similar after-hours program earlier this year to solve the same problem. The program there was set up to offer extended hours twice a month from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Bliss feels a similar program could potentially work in Madison Heights.

“We have our council meetings twice a month at 7:30 p.m. anyway, so it would make sense to offer late hours those days if the demand is there,” Bliss said. “Additionally, many of our department heads and the city manager are also in attendance at those meetings, making it easier should we move forward with a program like this.”

Bliss said he’s heard from residents who shared with him the challenges they face working around standard work hours to get to City Hall.

Some had issues coming at lunch and finding the building closed, he said, while others had to resort to taking time off work to visit City Hall.

“I think we have to find a way to solve this problem and make every effort we can to accommodate all of our citizens,” Bliss said.

City staff has already begun looking into potential options, as well as the costs and bargaining challenges that could be associated with a program like this.

City Councilman Robert Corbett said he thinks it’s something worth considering.

“I think the mayor pro tem raises an excellent point, and we should look to expand the availability of city services at times convenient for the public. Expanding our website to incorporate more features of a virtual City Hall is an ongoing project, but as Mark pointed out, not everyone is sufficiently computer literate to fully utilize that kind of system,” Corbett said. “For them, we should look into evening hours a couple times or so a month. Careful planning will be necessary, budget-wise, but I would think it’s a goal we could achieve in the next year or so.”