Mayor will keep City Hall open in the evening, by appointment

Busy residents can conduct business after regular hours

September 21, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff

In a nod to Taneytown's working population, Mayor Henry Heine has introduced a by-appointment, after-hours service for people who can't come to City Hall between 8 a.m. and 4: 30 p.m.

"It's not just for commuters," Heine said.

He said some people who work in town may be unable to get away for the length of time they need to conduct city business, such as applying for a building permit or poring over the city's zoning map.

The service is a cross between the old days, when Taneytown's City Hall was routinely open until 7: 30 p.m. and the future, when residents will have the convenience of e-mailing a building permit request and calling up the city code on the Internet.

Heine, elected in May, is a commuter. He leaves town at 6: 15 a.m. to drive to his job in Baltimore for the Mass Transit Administration and doesn't usually get back until 6 p.m. He started regular office hours from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, and tried to think of a way to extend City Hall hours without added cost, and without wasting a staff member's time if no one showed up.

Heine said staff members who have to stay late for such appointments may take compensatory time, such as leaving early on another day.

"It really doesn't cost the city any money," Heine said.

City Clerk Linda Hess remembers the days when Taneytown's downtown commercial district was bustling on Friday nights. Taneytown Bank and Trust's headquarters were across the street from City Hall, and shops stayed open late to catch the foot traffic. City Hall was open, too, as part of a downtown bustle of running errands and catching up on city goings-on.

"It was like a social thing back then," said Hess, who started working for the city in 1976 and was told when she was hired to expect to work late on Fridays. "People would go to the bank to cash their checks and they'd walk by the window and see me sitting there and stop in to talk. We had a grocer and a bakery downtown. But life is different now."

The practice died in the mid-1980s, when fewer people would show up, Hess said. The bank moved down the street, supermarkets opened on the edge of town and people mailed their water bills or dropped them off in the box at the front of the building.

Heine and the city manager and clerk all expect the requests for night appointments to be rare. So far, no one has asked, and the service was advertised in the town's newsletter at the beginning of this month.

The by-appointment late hours idea is unique in Carroll County. None of the other towns or cities offers it, nor does the county government. New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. started Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to noon for residents to conduct city business or drop off water bills.

Chip Boyles, city manager of Taneytown, said the main reasons residents come into City Hall are to apply for permits or to look at the zoning map -- often before buying or building a house.

"More and more homeowners are better informed as to what kind of zoning could surround them if they buy a house," Boyles said. They want to know if their neighbor will be a park, a factory or a shopping center, he said. He expects the appointment requests to be occasional, but perhaps foreshadowing another way to extend City Hall hours.

"It's kind of a transitional period, because in the very near future, we'll be able to do a lot of this through our Web site," Boyles said.

People could fill out forms and e-mail them, and drop off a check on the way to or from work.

Pub Date: 9/21/99

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