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Published: Tuesday, 7/4/2006

Most public offices quiet on holiday eve

Government Center in downtown Toledo was open for business with normal hours yesterday, but the regular hum of conversations and buzz of activity was virtually nonexistent.

That's not because people weren't manning the offices on all 22 floors of the hub of local, county, and state government, but because few residents were there to do business. And they weren't at the courts buildings or in the schools.

Despite a survey that recently reported July 3 will be a day not to expect productivity from workers, public officials found it was the lack of customers - not the lack of employees - that made the day a slow one.

"In some ways, the public is taking the day off as well," Lucas County Administrator Mike Beazley said.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judges Thomas Osowik and Charles Doneghy didn't preside over their dockets that are usually conducted on Monday. Jean Atkin, court administrator, was on vacation, a secretary in her office said.

Judge James Bates, the duty judge in the court yesterday, said it was typical with the holiday falling shortly after a weekend. He said the duty judge is on hand in case of emergencies. He said he didn't have a feel for just how many people were off yesterday.

"I have my criminal docket on Wednesday and a civil trial on Thursday, so I'm preparing for those," Judge Bates said. "I picked this day because I knew I would be here this week."

He said the courts usually work with a skeleton crew such days. He said attorneys often are on vacation as well and schedule around days like yesterday.

Judge Bates said the Friday after Thanksgiving used to be the slowest day of the year, so the judges agreed in recent years to close court altogether that day.

He said the days between Christmas and New Year's Day also are particularly slow, as well as when holidays fall later in the week, like on Thursday.

Offices were open yesterday at Toledo's two main school districts, Toledo Public and Washington Local.

Wendy Ferran, spokesman for the Washington Local district, said every office was staffed except for elementary registration.

"The superintendent and his secretary are here, the assistant superintendent and his staff are here," she said. "We do elementary registration all summer long, so I don't think one day really affects anyone too much."

Other school district leaders, including the superintendents in Oregon, Rossford, and Bedford, used vacation days yesterday.

"We basically have a skeleton crew here. The majority of our employees took vacation days, but we are open and taking phone calls," said Wes Berger, assistant superintendent of personnel for Bedford Public Schools.

Phones went unanswered in some of the area's rural and suburban school districts, including Pike-Delta-York.

Though some of the floors of Government Center were down to bare bones, others were fully staffed.

Just days after sending out notices that tax bills were on the way, the Lucas County Treasurer's Office was fully staffed to help those who wanted to pay their taxes. "The office has a long-standing policy that during collection months, July and January, all staff be here to assist taxpayers coming in here to pay taxes," Deputy Treasurer Mark Austin said.

Among those taking the day off was Bob Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff.

Mr. Reinbolt said he plans to be on vacation all week, though he'd already taken part in two conference calls and answered questions from The Blade before the morning was over.

In his two previous terms, Mr. Finkbeiner was known for discouraging his staff from taking vacations. Mr. Reinbolt said that is not the case now. "I need to get a lot of things done around the house," Mr. Reinbolt said. "The mayor's fine with that. We believe it's important for people to take a little time off."

He said Dave Moebius, the assistant chief of staff, is acting chief of staff this week.

Having a full staff doesn't seem to be the norm, especially in the private sector.

In the survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. of 100 human-resource executives, 56 percent said they would have normal office hours yesterday, citing the global nature of their businesses. But it also found many workers scheduled it as a vacation day.

Nearly a third of the businesses surveyed said they would be closed, 5 percent said they would be open but would shut their doors early, and 2 percent would have skeleton crews only.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said that many county employees made July 3 one of their vacation days.

"I really see it as a business-as- usual day," she said. "People are certainly entitled to take a vacation day as long as we feel comfortable with staffing levels."

The usual number of people worked yesterday in the Toledo fire administration, minus some civilians who asked for the day off or used a vacation day, Deputy Chief Bob Metzger said.

The fire department has a minimum staffing level of 103 firefighters it must meet daily. Only one of eight staff chiefs was off yesterday, Fire Chief Mike Bell said.

Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said only 10 percent of officers and command officers in each section or bureau can be off daily.

He said administrators in positions not essential to day-to-day operation do take days like yesterday as a vacation day.

Chief Navarre said many officers will be working today because of the Fourth of July fireworks downtown.

There also is a cap on the number of employees who can be off in the clerk's office at Toledo Municipal Court, and yesterday was not unlike any other day in the summer.

In Fulton County, a phone call to the county commissioners' office rang so many times it raised doubts about whether the office was open.

The case was just the opposite, however, according to administrative assistant Linda Parnell, who said she wasn't picking up phones as quickly as usual because it was an unusually busy day.

The commissioners met in the morning and administrators were in back-to-back meetings through the afternoon. No one in the office took the day off.

This article was compiled by staff writer Erica Blake based on her reporting and that of staff writers Christina Hall, Tom Troy, Clyde Hughes, Ignazio Messina, and Jane Schmucker.



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