MINGO JUNCTION - Village police officers are willing to take a 33 percent pay cut and give up several other benefits to keep four officers and the chief working.
Village Council, Mayor Ron DiCarlo and Clerk John Angelica spent three hours Friday working on the 2013 budget but did not make any final determinations on the number of employees that will be laid off.
Council is scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Thursday to again discuss the budget.
FIGURING THE FIGURES — Mingo Junction Councilmen Michael Herrick, left, and Chuck Dickey and Mayor Ron DiCarlo, back, write down figures during a finance committee meeting Friday. The council, DiCarlo and village Clerk John Angelica spent three hours working on the budget but still didn’t make any final determinations on how many village employees will be laid off come January. - Mark Law
Council has asked the Mingo Junction Safety Forces and the Communication Workers of America Local 4527 to come back to council with concession offers but only the police department has made a firm offer.
Fire Chief John Wright made a presentation to council on Friday, which included an 11 percent cut in wages, but the firefighters haven't agreed. The safety forces are made up of members of the police and fire departments. The union will have to write a memorandum of understanding to be signed by the union and council before any concessions are formalized.
Wright said council has to determine the level of service it wants for the fire and emergency medical services. Wright said the fire department may not provide backup for surrounding communities and may have to rely on those communities for help. If only two firefighters are on duty and there is an ambulance call, the fire department may have to call another ambulance service to respond to a second call.
The fire department had 900 calls this year, he said.
"We hear all the reasons to keep people working, but we need a solution," said Councilman James Morrocco.
Police Chief Steve Maguschak said his department could operate on a $175,000 budget but the department will no longer have overtime, holiday pay, a clothing allowance and other benefits, in addition to the 33 percent pay cut.
He said felony crime investigations may have to be handled by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, and there won't be money to pay officers to appear in court.
"This is a bad situation," the police chief said. "We won't have 24-hour service and we won't be able to cover every turn."
Maguschak said the officers and their families will suffer with the pay cuts but know what the consequences of prior layoffs were like.
"That is quite a concession," said Councilman John Fabian.
Morrocco, a retired village police officer, said the officers will be working for less money than they would get with unemployment benefits, which would only last for six months.
"I don't know how we can ask any more of them," Morrocco said.
A patrolman will be be paid $10.73 an hour. The chief said he wants the officers to be allowed to go work part-time for other police departments. One officer is paid for with a federal grant, which covers 75 percent of the officer's payroll.
Howard Armstrong, a former Wellsburg city manager, has offered on a voluntary basis to help council in preparing the budget. Armstrong also has submitted an application for the vacant village administrator's position.
"It is simple math. You need to balance the services you want (with the revenue available). Without the revenue, you don't have many options," Armstrong said.
The city has faced a major reduction in revenue with the closing of the RG Steel plant. Income tax collections have been cut by 75 percent during the past four years.
Wright said the village could consider a levy to fund the fire department and emergency medical services.
There are eight employees in the service department who collect garbage, cut grass and plow streets in the winter. Council said, with the available revenue, four employees will have to be laid off. The village needs the revenue to pay the remaining four their wages and pay the unemployment benefits for the four lwho will be laid off.
George Stoddart, CWA local president, didn't attend the meeting to offer any concessions.
"The police department took concessions. The service department is not giving anything up," said Councilman Jack Brettell. "Everyone has to give something up."
Mayor DiCarlo said a meeting will be held prior to Thursday's meeting with the unions so council can make some decisions on the number of employees that will need to be laid off.
The village sent out layoff notices to all village workers effective Dec. 29, but some in the water and sewer department will need to be called back to operate the water and sewer plants.
Automation equipment is being installed at both plants, which will result in the layoff of five workers.
The meeting Thursday will include a discussion between the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and council about taking over the operations of the senior center. Council, also at the meeting, will approve year-end transfers of money in various accounts.