Friday, September 26, 2003

Family services to frolic on duty

Teamwork goal in Butler Co.

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Salsa dancing. Hot-tubbing. Chair massages.

It's all in a day's work for the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services.

All 200 employees are required to attend a leadership and team building retreat next month - at a cost of $6,000 to taxpayers, besides the paid workday.

"This allows them to deal with some of their health and stress-related issues and develop teamwork and cooperation skills," County Administrator Derek Conklin said Thursday. "I think it's a good use of taxpayers' money."

The Leadership and Wellness Training retreat starts with three hours of leadership training at Camp Campbell Gard in St. Clair Township. It ends with health screenings and a selection of activities -hot-tubbing, salsa, "Stamping for Fun" and yoga - at the East Butler County YMCA in Fairfield Township.

The department's $24 million budget is footing the bill for 100 employees Oct. 3 and for the rest of the staff Oct. 10.

But they must pay $10 out of their own pocket if they want a 10-minute chair massage at the Y, according to a memo the department's director, Bruce Jewett, wrote to staff Tuesday. The Y is donating its facility, he said.

"We are really not into wasting county money," Jewett said. "We are trying to do things that will promote team-building and professional development. The afternoon session at the Y will focus on some of the stresses and wellness things we think every employer is concerned about."

In his memo, Jewett encourages employees to come and enjoy the day.

But some county residents are outraged at the expense and loss of work time. The department's budget comes from a mix of mostly federal money, with some state and county money, according to Jewett.

"Salsa dancing? Are you kidding? This is so ludicrous," said Mike Anagnostou, 39, who lives in Hamilton and owns Thornapple Wine Shop in West Chester.

"I am amazed they would be doing something like this when there are so many county services that are going to be cut," Anagnostou said.


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