Queen Creek's trial four-day workweek is drawing curiosity from public officials across the state.
Since the town launched the alternative schedule and expanded hours Monday through Thursday, human resources director Bruce Gardner said he's been answering at least one inquiry a week from all over the East Valley and the state.
Questions have come from Tempe, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and state government. Other communities watching include Eloy, Wickenburg and Sahuarita, which is south of Tucson.
"There's a lot of dialogue in these other municipalities between the organization and elected officials, but it seems like it's just exploration at this point," Gardner said. "It will be interesting to see if other cities and towns will follow through."
Queen Creek's trial period for the four-day workweek began June 30 and will run through Sept. 1 with business hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Most departments are closed Friday, but essential services remain open.
Town Manager John Kross proposed the change as a way to boost morale during difficult economic times.He said the move would save money on everything from fuel to electricity -- an estimated savings of about $4,000 a month.
The four-day workweek comes at the same time that employees' hours have been reduced from 40 hours to 37.5 hours, and salaried employees' pay has been cut 6.25 percent.
"When you have tight budget times you're looking for alternatives," Kross said. "This was the overriding issue as well as meeting employees on the morale issue."
Queen Creek is not the first municipality in the state to try a four-day workweek, but it is the East Valley's trailblazer. Yuma and Avondale have also used the four-day week.
"We're not intending to create such widespread interest, but by default some interest has happened," Kross said. "We were looking to create alternative work schedules that meet customer needs, balancing that with employee needs."
Scottsdale officials said they are curious about what Queen Creek is doing. Spokesman Pat Dodds said Scottsdale is reviewing the city's work schedules.
"I think a lot of people are looking at Queen Creek to see what they're doing," Dodds said.
Scottsdale does have some alternative schedules in place, but Dodds said none of those is a four-day workweek across the organization, so Scottsdale will continue to watch local municipalities to see how it's being done. Tempe officials said they also inquired about Queen Creek's four-day workweek. Their interest is in gathering information on alternatives they can offer to help employees save on commuting expenses.
City spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said Tempe already offers some alternative schedules for employees and noted that two-thirds of employees don't work a traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day-a-week schedule.
"We are analyzing the fuel cost issue," she said. "Part of that was checking with Queen Creek to see everything involved in what they did."
While the trial period is in effect, Queen Creek officials said they are gathering input from residents, customers and town employees.
Town officials say there isn't a lot of information on cost savings or feedback from customers and employees since the trial period has been in effect for only about a month.
The town has a survey on its Web site, www.queencreek.org, and surveys also are available at Town Hall. Findings will be presented to the Town Council at a special meeting Aug. 27.
Gardner said so far the town has been getting fairly positive comments and said officials are continuing to monitor them.
Local architect and resident Robin Benning said he understands the town is trying to save money, but thinks the new hours "hurt the community."
"It's pretty inconvenient," he said. "I often go to town to submit for permits on Friday. Clients are always asking to get permits pulled so they can get started over the weekend."
Benning said he would like to see the town go back to the five-day-a-week schedule because "being open at 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. is not as useful as having one whole extra day."
Resident Cathy Miner said she doesn't mind the change.
"I don't have a lot of business at Town Hall, so it doesn't affect me at all," she said. "The extended hours are a really good idea."
Ramping up to the change the town spent a month educating residents and customers about the different hours. Kross thinks that helped get the word out.
Town employees Lester Godsey, the information technology manager, and Traci Polk, a financial analyst, like the new schedule and said the new hours allow them to car pool. Both live in Chandler.
"The days seemed a little long in the first week, but now the ship has set sail and everything has evened out," Polk said. "I'm all for the three-day weekend."
Godsey said he sees more customers taking advantage of the early hours, particularly those in the development community.
"I think it's a positive for the organization and it's something people are getting more used to."
Gardner said they are unsure if there are many child care issues for employees because the trial period was over the summer when school is out.
As for cost savings, facilities manager Lee Councilor said the town should have more information in mid-August when it receives the town's electricity bill for the first full month of the altered schedule. Already Councilor has noticed decreased use of the chiller system that keeps town buildings cool. He said it's running about 10 percent of the normal amount of time on weekends because the air conditioning can be turned up higher on Thursday night through the weekend.
"Hopefully we'll see some good, drastic savings," Councilor said.