Town switches to biometric time clocks


The Johnston Town Council passed three resolutions Tuesday at a meeting that lasted roughly a half hour at the Municipal Courthouse.

Resolution 2012-37 authorized Mayor Joseph Polisena to enter into an agreement with Millennium Water for the maintenance and service of the town’s water system. The three-year contract is a continuation of service by Millennium, who first took over the system when Johnston opted to privatize water service in 2007. The cost of the contract is $175,000 in the first year, $185,000 in the second year and $195,000 in the third year.

The transition to a private contractor eliminated two town employees, which Polisena said significantly reduced overtime costs resulting from weekend and off-hour alarms. Two cost-saving resolutions addressed employee attendance as well as cell phone costs for employees.

The council approved Tuesday a $20,000 agreement with Empower Software for a biometric time clock system. The cost of the system is being distributed among budgets for all town departments that will utilize the technology. The school department is considering the costs versus benefits of implementing the same system in the district.

Under this program, employees use their thumbprint to clock in for the day. That information is transmitted into a personnel system that keeps track of employee work hours and vacation or personal time – functions that are now fulfilled by Personnel Clerk Jen Goldberger.

Under the old system, Goldberger must check off individual boxes for each employee who misses a day, based on slips submitted for vacation or sick time. In May, when the town went out to bid for the system, Goldberger called the current system “old school” and said she was looking forward to the new technology.

“It’s a great system. We’re moving into the 21st century,” Polisena said.

Biometric time clocks will be placed in all town buildings: the police and fire stations, Town Hall, the Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Public Works, Municipal Courthouse and Mohr Library. All union employees will use the system with the exception of police officers and firefighters, as their schedules fluctuate too much. Office staff in both departments will use the system, however.

Polisena added that these time clocks would prevent “buddy punching” and provide a more accurate record of employee attendance. Reports on hours worked and times clocked in and out for each employee will be automatically sent to department heads to help them keep track of employee performance. Department heads can access the town server at any time to manually add in notes about absenteeism or issues regarding specific employees.

The data will likewise be sent to ADP, the payroll company that handles town employees. Pay stubs will report how much vacation time employees have accrued.

Councilman Ernest Pitochelli voted in favor of the resolution and said it appears to be a worthwhile investment to better monitor employees and ensure accurate paychecks.

“It probably should have been done a long time ago,” he said.

Chris Rao, director of the town’s MIS Department, said work on implementing the system should begin soon, but said it would take two to three months for full implementation. He plans to phase the software in, with two or three payroll cycles using both the old and new methods to ensure accuracy.

The final resolution passed this week authorized the town to enter into a $30,000 contract agreement with Cyber Communications for a handheld radio system for the Department of Public Works. Each of the town’s five foremen would be given one of these radios, enabling them to communicate more efficiently and also enabling the town to pinpoint their location at all times. Polisena said the system should pay for itself within the first five years.

“We eventually want to get rid of our cell phones,” he said. “This is something we feel will save us money in the long run.”


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