Warren tax boosts spirits and safety

Recall letters will be drafted as early as today, even for those furloughed employees who are working elsewhere.
WARREN -- "Everyone said it couldn't be done."
That was what city firefighter Chuck Eggleston had to say shortly after learning Tuesday that voters approved a 31/2-year 0.5 percent income tax increase for police and fire protection.
Police Chief John Mandopoulos simply said, "Damn, we're good."
As for Greg Woodward, he soon plans to shave the beard he started growing when he was laid off from the fire department in January 2000, now that he'll be called back to work.
Celebration time: The three men were among those who cheered, hugged and congratulated one another after learning that nearly 58 percent of voters approved the issue.
The increase will net about $4.8 million each year, to boost safety services, Auditor David Griffing has said. It will bring the city's income tax rate to 2 percent.
In March, August and November 2000, voters defeated similar ballot issues, none of which designated money for the police and fire departments.
Safety service personnel, along with other city employees, were laid off in January 2000, when other cuts were made and parks closed, to head off a budget shortfall.
"This is truly a victory for the city of Warren," Mayor Hank Angelo said Tuesday.
Tax supporters: He credited the win to city employees, including Eggleston, Mandopoulos, Fire Chief Jay Mulligan and Geoff Fusco, a police officer who was co-chairman of Fire and Police for a Safer City, a committee that lobbied for the tax.
Recall letters will be drafted as early as today, even for those furloughed employees who are working elsewhere.
They will have 14 days from receipt of the letter to respond, Angelo said, explaining that those who have resigned from either department forfeited their recall rights.
"My concern is to get the safety forces back to work as soon as possible," the mayor said.
Angelo plans to meet soon with Mandopoulos and Mulligan to look over finances and see how long it will take to bring personnel back.
Staffing in the police department is at 54.
Mandopoulos said that his department will eventually have 84 officers plus a chief and that funds will help the department buy new equipment, implement training programs and address an aging fleet of cruisers.
He said he doesn't expect new hires to be on the road before November because of a long hiring process that includes a civil service exam, background investigation, physicals, drug tests and polygraphs.
Fire department: The fire department has 64 firefighters on staff, and two of three stations closed because of budget cuts.
Mulligan, who was unavailable Tuesday night, has said passage of the issue will open the two stations and eventually bring staffing to 75 plus the chief.
Mulligan would like to have 87 firefighters to staff the three stations, fight fires and provide paramedic services.
Angelo said he should know today, after talking to Mulligan, how soon the two fire stations will open.
Because personnel will be recalled and hired on a staggered basis, some funds could be freed to open parks. Angelo said he won't know until he goes over finances with the chiefs.

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