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As many people prepare for a three-day weekend thanks to Labor Day, about 1,200 Harford County government employees will have a four-day weekend. But there is no cause for celebration.

This Friday, Sept. 4, marks the second of five mandated countywide furlough days.

“It’s very much like a holiday from a public perspective. We’re closed with the exception of public safety,” Scott Gibson, county human resources director, said. “It’s definitely not a holiday for them. They’re not being paid for the day. We’re closed Monday as well.”

The first countywide furlough day was July 24. Gibson said the first furlough day “went off without a hitch” and expects more of the same for Friday’s furlough.

“It will run the same way the last furlough ran,” Gibson said. “People can expect government services to be closed Friday. The main administration buildings will be closed.”

Harford County Executive David Craig announced the furlough days in June, along with layoffs for 34 county employees, to help save the county money. Additional county furlough days are scheduled for Oct. 12, Dec. 4 and April 5.

“The one thing the public needs to remember is these are not days off,” Gibson said. “They are days off without pay. Employees are seeing a salary reduction.”

As part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget reduction plan, non-24/7 state government operations will also close on five scheduled days.

“It’s virtually every service the state provides that’s not essential,” Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said, adding the furlough will affect about 70,000 state employees. “It’s all employees who aren’t 24/7, like state police, emergency personnel and that sort of thing.”

The state service reduction days are the business days before Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Memorial Day.

“The reason we picked this Friday is because it will probably disrupt public service less because we had more people going away for the long weekend,” Gibson said. “We tend to notice our traffic for services such as permits and licenses and things of that nature slow before holidays.”

Most county government agencies will be closed Friday as the result of the furlough. The closings included services such as permits and licenses and offices where residents pay their property taxes and water bills. The county’s 911 Center and water and sewer plants will remain open.

According to James Reilly, clerk of the court for Harford County, the courts will remain open.

“The courts will not be closed under the authority of Chief Judge [Robert M.] Bell,” Reilly said. “The reason is because Sept. 4 was too close for the courts to deal with postponing cases and all that. That’s the reason Chief Judge Bell decided we would be open.”

The Harford County Sheriff’s Office will also remain open, but the Harford County Health Department will be closed because of the furlough. Employees of the sheriff’s office and the health department are considered state employees.

“The furlough Friday is a result of the governor’s mandatory furlough for state employees,” Susan Kelly, county health department officer, said. “We have on-call staff to handle environmental health and communicable diseases emergencies.”

Kelly said the health department’s regular on-call system will be in place on Friday as it is on holidays, weekends and after hours.

Although the county government will be shut down Friday, Gibson said the government would be prepared to handle any emergencies.

“In the case of an emergency, it will be handled just like an emergency on a holiday,” Gibson said. “Critical staff is still working. If an emergency can’t be handled by them or a tree is down on the road, we always have employees on call for emergencies and employees can be called for emergencies.”


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