The St. Francis City Council voted unanimously Monday to try a pilot program that will mean a four-day full-time workweek for most city employees and one fewer day of city services for residents. The experiment is expected to start in September and continue through December.

After reading of Utah's move to go to a four-day/10-hour schedule for state workers, city Administrator Matt Hylen floated the idea at the July 7 council meeting as a proposal to save utilities costs.

But several city officials say they are convinced that the plan has potential to improve service to residents by offering later hours on the days that city offices are open.

Response to the idea has been positive among the city's 12 employees and among residents, said Mayor Randy Dressen.

"We've all generated our pro and con lists, and I think we're pretty much on track of what those are," he said.

The plan calls for offices such as the city clerk, finance, administration and others to be open 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m., longer than the current 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.

Dressen noted that the city's location on the metro's edge means long commutes, which makes it difficult for many residents to get to city offices before closing time. Under the plan, many residents could take care of city business either before work or on the way home.

The plan wouldn't apply to police or to on-call firefighters.

On the utilities side, officials don't know yet how much they may save. Thermostats, lights and computers can be turned down or off three days a week.

Hylen is in talks with public works' union representatives. Those workers already have a four-day summer schedule. Under the plan, the current weekend emergency on-call schedule will be extended one day.

The union has been sympathetic to the city's concern that the new schedule not result in increased overtime, Hylen said. The two sides are working together on a schedule.

The League of Minnesota Cities doesn't keep track of cities' hours of operation, but at least one other city, Anoka, has gone to an optional four-day week, to save workers' fuel costs.

On Monday, the state of Utah began its 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-through-Thursday schedule for all state workers.

St. Francis Council Member Ray Jones was skeptical, though he voted for the plan.

"I'm not all that great on four 10-hour days," he said. "Overall, I think government should be available as much as it can be for people."

Council Member Steve Kane pointed out that the plan is temporary.

"I'm all for at least trying it," he said. "If it doesn't work, we can change it, but I see a lot of positives."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409