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BOARDMAN TOWNSHIP The costs of layoffs There are concerns about the effects on residents’ safety



Published: Fri, February 29, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

The layoffs amount to nearly $2 million savings this year.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BOARDMAN — The township expects to pay about $748,000 in unemployment and health-care costs this year for the 30 full-time employees laid off.

Administrator Jason Loree said that number could rise depending on how employees receive their accrued sick, vacation and accumulated time. The township must continue health coverage for six months at the levels the employees were receiving.

Part-time employees don’t receive health insurance or unemployment compensation.

Trustees announced the layoffs at a meeting Wednesday as a first step to balance a budget that has had expenses exceeding revenue since 2003. Another step is a plan to place a levy on the ballot, although what type and when hasn’t been determined.

A 4.1-mill general operating levy failed last November.

The layoffs hit nine of the township’s 39 full-time firefighters, all nine part-time firefighters, the fire chief’s secretary, 12 of 27 union road department employees plus the recycling coordinator, seven police civilian employees and three part-time employees from other departments. Another road department employee resigned.

It amounts to about $1.96 million in savings this year, Loree said.

“There are concerns about how responses will be affected in terms of safety services,” said Bert Ehrenberg, president of the North Boardman Neighborhood Block Watch.

He thinks levy passage is vital to the township and believes other revenue generators should also be explored.

The cuts mean changes in township services.

“We’re now trying to align what we’re left with after the layoffs in terms of staffing,” Loree said.

The road department’s three mechanics, including one who works on the police fleet, are among those laid off. The township now has to get that work done elsewhere.

“We had a cruiser with a flat tire today,” Loree said. “Normally, we would have just had the mechanic fix it. We had to have the car towed to a dealership, the tire changed and had to have an officer go pick it up.”

Layoffs also led to the closure Wednesday night and Thursday of the South Avenue fire station. The department has to have enough people working per shift to staff all three stations.

Harry Wolfe, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1176, which represents township firefighters, is concerned about the safety of the community because of the cuts.

“Do you think St. E’s chose to build a new hospital here to have a skeleton crew of safety forces?” he asked.

He also questions why employees weren’t told about the township’s dire financial condition. Last month, the township and union signed a three-year contract calling for 2.5 percent raises each year.

“Why didn’t they say that there was no money?” he said. “If we would have known that, we would have taken a different approach just like we have to do in the next 90 days.”

Any concessions or other cost savings produced from employees in the next 90 days will be used in those respective departments. Concessions could save some jobs and reduce the layoff numbers, trustees have said.

Both Wolfe and Mark Bestic, president of the Township Workers Association, which represents road department employees, said there had been concerns that if their unions made concessions the savings would be used in other departments.

Bestic has been a township employee for six years and is among those now unemployed because of layoff.

“We’re going to go back and hopefully, we can bring back some people as soon as we can,” Bestic said.

That union is in talks with township officials to try to develop new contract terms to save money and jobs.

His members are frustrated and confused, and some are angry.

“We brought 0 percent raises to the table and they’re still going after 13 of us,” Bestic said, referring to a new road department contract.

While most employees learned their fate Wednesday night from their respective department heads, those in the police department were told they were still employed.

Chief Patrick Berarducci “told us that we were ‘on the bubble,’ but we still had jobs,” one of those employees said. “I came to work” Thursday.

The chief called them in to a meeting Thursday morning to give them the bad news.

Berarducci said he believed that if respective department heads could make sufficient cuts in their budgets they wouldn’t have to lay people off. Loree told him Thursday morning that number crunching is to occur after the issuance of layoff notices.

“The chief made a mistake,” Berarducci said.


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