Public asked to share feedback on possible change to city hours

NILES — The community is invited to participate in a public forum and provide their insight on a potential plan to change Niles City Hall hours.

A public hearing will take place at the next regularly scheduled meeting Monday, April 9, at the Niles Fire Station Complex, 1345 E. Main St. City Administrator Ric Huff advised that people wishing to speak on the topic arrive about 15 minutes before the 6 p.m. meeting.

Members of the Niles City Council discussed the topic Monday night during a committee of the whole meeting.

Currently, city hall hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. But those hours could change to 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, if approved by council at a later date.

City hall houses a number of public service operations including utilities, public works and the assessing offices. Huff said he wanted to discuss the issue, because he said he had observed a number of walk-in city customers scrambling to pay their bills within city hall’s hours. 

“What we’re finding is that the vast majority of us arrive at work at 8 a.m. and the parking lot already has cars in it, with people waiting to get in the door and pay their bills,” Huff said. “They are kind of anxious because they are supposed to be at work at 8 a.m. in the morning.”

It was also observed that Fridays are the slowest days for customer traffic. 

While city bills can be paid online, Huff said there are a number of customers who still prefer to make payments in person or who want to use cash. 

“There is a demographic that has utility services with us that we feel would be better served by being open at 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at night,” Huff said. “The question is how do you all feel about that?”

City council members seemed to agree that it seemed like changing the hours would benefit those who utilize city hall services. But they also said hearing what the public thought of the idea was important. 

Council member John DiCostanzo, who represents the 4th Ward, said it seemed like a better way to serve city residents.

“I think it is a good idea if it is supporting customers and making the city more accessible to the people who need our services,” DiCostanzo said.

Huff said city employees would still be working 40 hours. He also said the potential hour changes had been discussed with city employees, who seemed to be on board with the hour changes.

The downside discussed was that people could not use city hall during the afternoons Friday, including during the lunch hour, when there is some foot traffic.

Also during the committee of the whole meeting:

• City council members discussed the condition of downtown sidewalks along Main Street. A particularly harsh winter has taken a toll on the sidewalks and planters. City council members examined photos, which illustrated these damages including planters that have been pushed off the foundation and are leaning over, uneven sidewalks or missing stones all together.

A preliminary estimate showed that it would cost about $650,000 to replace sidewalks. In the weeks ahead, city officials will research ways to potentially fund the project.

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