Smithfield Herald

Selma to curb business hours

Business hours at Selma Town Hall will change in the new year.

After much debate, a divided Town Council voted 3-2 earlier this month to change the hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday starting in January. Hours have been 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.

The council agreed to make the change effective in January after Councilman Eric Sellers said he wanted to make sure residents had time to get used to the idea. Sellers voted against the change.

In Selma, customers can pay their bills any number of ways – by mail, in person at Town Hall during business hours. via the drop box at Town Hall or online.

Mayor Cheryl Oliver downplayed the change in hours, noting the effort Selma has made to encourage customers to pay their bills online.

“We’ve invested a lot of money trying to get online,” Oliver said. “As you increase options, you can drop down customer-service hours.”

But the town has no readily available data on how many customers now pay their bills online.

Councilwoman Jackie Lacy voted against the change, saying the town’s older residents, who are used to paying their bills in person, will have a hard time adapting to the new hours.

“Customers have to be our primary concern,” she said. “Selma is an older community and middle-aged.”

With the 7:30 to 5:30 day, Selma’s five administrative staffers work four nine-hour days and one four-day, with the four-hour day varying by staff member. With at least one employee away for half a day every day, staffing can appear a little thin, especially on the busiest of days.

“Because we have really two people working finance customer service, there may be times where it seems like a skeleton crew,” Town Manager Jon Barlow said.

That’s not the appearance Selma wants to create, Oliver said. “There are times Town Hall can look like a ghost town, and that’s not good,” she said. “What I’m hearing is if there’s just one person, (customers are) like, ‘What are they thinking?’ The reputation of very good workers is being lowered because of the process or framework in which they’re working.”

Oliver said she doesn’t want employees to think the council is taking away their half-day away because of anything they did.

“This is not personal towards any employees – we have great folks,” she said. “We need to make sure the process helps highlight their successes.”

Selma residents can still pay their utility bills from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday through December.