GW employees meet Virginia

ASHBURN, Va. – Reyna Bonilla, a GW employee, gets up every morning at 5:30 to take a bus and the Metro – she also transfers Metro lines – before arriving at the Foggy Bottom Campus.

From the campus, she now has to take a shuttle bus to Loudoun County, Va., where her department, the payroll office, has been moved.

“By the time I get to work, I am already tired,” Bonilla said.

The decision to outsource payroll, along with the supply chain and student accounts offices, to GW’s Virginia Campus has drawn the ire of a number of employees, many of whom have quit.

“My commute time has been increased by an hour each way,” said Barbara Lemmer, another payroll employee now working in Virginia.

Lemmer, who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., chose specifically to live in the area because it was close to the Metro’s red line, which could take her straight to work. Now she finds herself with an extra two-hour commute every day.

More than 70 employees have been affected by the move, which Louis Katz, GW’s executive vice president and treasurer, said is being conducted to help the University use its space more efficiently.

“We are trying to free up as much space on the Foggy Bottom Campus as possible for academic and student life functions,” he said. Students will not see a drop in service because departments such as student accounts, Katz said, still have offices in Foggy Bottom that send a lot of their work to employees in Virginia.

He added that the University plans to shift Information System and Services Administrative Applications and the comptroller’s office to the Virginia Campus in 2005, a move that will affect an additional 200 employees. GW established the Virginia campus in 1991. The 90-acre campus houses several graduate programs and a federally funded transportation institute.

As a result of the office change, some departments have lost up to a third of their work force, said Katz, whose office has received numerous complaints.

“I know that a lot of people quit from supply chain and payroll,” he said.

To ease the commute, GW began running a free shuttle service from the West Falls Church Metro station last month to transport employees to the Ashburn, Va., campus. A shuttle also transports Virginia Campus employees from the Gelman Library.

A rush-hour shuttle ride from Gelman to the campus last week took more than an hour. Katz said the average transport time is 40 minutes.

Bonilla said some employees tried to change departments within the University unsuccessfully. She said she is trying to find a job closer to home, with some difficulty.

“At this time the market isn’t good,” she said. “It’s hard to find a job nearby.”

Despite the trek some workers must now make out to Virginia, Katz said the University stands to benefit financially from less expensive space in Loudoun County. He added that the increased building sizes in Virginia provide for more spacious working conditions.

“It’s a better working environment for everyone, and they are able to work more efficiently,” he said.

Alicia O’Neil, project manager of the move, said the office shift will also improve customer service.

“The space, as designed, also allows departments to be located in one central location and offers departments that work closely together to be adjacent,” she said. “We believe that this will result in enhanced customer service and more collaboration and teamwork between departments that work together to service the University community.”

Payroll manager Jim Montgomery said he agrees with O’Neil and Katz.

“The working environment is much better,” he said. “The overall office floor plan as well as each employee’s work space was well thought-out.”

Others said they did not think the facilities are worth the increased travel time.

“(The facilities) are okay,” Bonilla said. “Everything is nice, but the commute is not good at all. I don’t even know how many hours I am commuting a week.”

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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