One of the three Licking County commissioners has set evening office hours.

One of the three Licking County commissioners has set evening office hours.

Mark Van Buren, appointed to the seat in May 2008 after Marcia Phelps was elected Licking County Municipal Court clerk, has been spending the second and fourth Tuesdays from 5 and 7 p.m. available to talk to constituents.

"It's my background," Van Buren said. "I was on village council and a township trustee. They meet in the evenings; that way people can come."

Since becoming a commissioner, Van Buren said, the county does a lot of business during the day and he worries that people who work during the day can't get in to see the commissioners. He set his evening hours in May.

"I wanted to at least give people the opportunity to come here and ask questions," Van Buren said. "People shouldn't have to take off work."

From 5 to 6 p.m., Van Buren sits in the county information booth in the county administration building. There's an hour lag time between the day staff's shift end and the night security person's arrival on those two evenings, he said.

Thus far, he said, he has talked to a few visitors and passersby.

Commissioner Doug Smith said Van Buren has not brought any business from his evening hours before commissioners.

Van Buren invited the other two commissioners to hold the same evening hours, but Smith said that would turn the session into a public meeting, with a quorum, and would require the clerk to stay and possibly a representative of the prosecuting attorney's office.

"Neither Tim (Bubb) nor I chose to participate in that," Smith said. "Unless there's a need, we don't know if that participation will be productive."

Smith said the county conducts most of its business during the day, but it sets evening meetings in different locations as needed. He referred to the most recent -- held in Jersey Township on a Monday evening -- to talk about extending water and sewer services along state Route 161.

Van Buren said he also would like to schedule town-hall meetings this fall, to be set in the evening in different locations.

Smith said the county already schedules those "as circumstances dictate."

"We try to be responsive to our constituents," Smith said. "We schedule meetings in the neighborhoods, which is more convenient for residents."

Van Buren is running to retain his seat in the November election. When asked if the evening hours and proposed town-hall meetings are a political move, he reiterated that the meetings are something he set up because of his background.

"People have the right to come in here," he said.

He said he thinks people have the right to get as much information as they want, which is why he put county financial information on his Web site.