You Paid For It: Pinellas County’s day off

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — For many working stiffs, Wednesday is sometimes called Hump Day. But, if you work for Pinellas County government, this Wednesday is quite literally a day at the park devoted to playing instead of working.

“This kind of event is really critical to producing those quality services that we strive for,” said Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodward. 

More than 2,500 county workers took off Wednesday, with the county commission’s blessing, for a picnic at Sand Key Park. The park is also closed to the public for the employee appreciation day event.

“We started this during the end of the recession,” said Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel. “It was actually my idea, because we had over-stressed and overburdened workers.”

The beach party featured talent contests, dodge ball, volleyball, bean bag tosses, fishing, kayaking, feasting and other fun activities.

But, this day of stress relief for county workers does come with a price. For starters, it cost $12,630 for the food, drinks, staging, trophies,volleyball nets, tents chairs, kayaks and everything else it takes to throw a beach picnic for 2,500 workers. Woodard says that money comes out of a vending machine fund instead of general revenue.

There’s also the loss of parking fees, since the county shut down Sand Key Park to the public and offered free parking to its workers.

Then, there’s the question of lost productivity at the expense of taxpayers. If you assume county workers make an average of $100 a day, that would amount to more than $250,000 in lost labor paid for by Pinellas taxpayers. A $200-average salary would mean a $500,000 bill for taxpayers.

Woodard and Seel both insist the boost in morale and productivity among county workers more than makes up for a one day loss of labor. “I would say that you’re going to see a much more productive workforce,” Seel said.

Among other things, Employee Appreciation Day means no human services, no veteran’s services, no utility bill services, no building permits and no waste disposal at the county landfill after 12 p.m. The unexpected building department closure didn’t sit well with licensed contractor Duane Wright.

“How do we get our work done?” Wright asked. Other county government organizations such as the Sheriff’s Office, Tax Collector, Circuit Clerk, State Attorney’s Office and courts remained open Wednesday, because they do not fall under the management of the Pinellas County Commission and County Administrator. 

This has become an unofficial holiday for Pinellas County and has been planned for months, if not an entire year. But, public notices on the office closures did not go out until Monday via Twitter, Facebook and the county’s online website.

Woodard said Pinellas County offices will be open for usual Thursday for anyone who might have been inconvenienced.

“We’ll be open for business tomorrow,” Woodard said.

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