Nine to be laid off from IPDPublished 10:57am Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Less than two months before Ironton was to stop its dispatching operation, Mayor Rich Blankenship has sent out layoff letters to the four dispatchers, as well as five officers.
The letters went out Monday afternoon. Part of the proposed layoffs are five police officers: Chad Artrip, Jamie Pruitt, Larry Large, John Hammonds and Chad Gue and dispatchers Kenton Jordan, Michelle Colvin, Troy Eddleman and Mark Duncan.
According to the notice given to officers, their layoffs will begin May 10; dispatchers will be laid off May 18.
Mayor Rich Blankenship said he didn’t like having to issue the notices but, per the contract the city has with its unions, the notice must come within a specified time frame. Blankenship said in spite of the recent municipal fee increase, the city is still facing dwindling state funding and cannot continue to keep spending at its current pace. He did not rule out more layoffs.
“We’re looking at all three unions,” he said. “We can’t rule it out.”
Sgt. Pam Neal Wagner, who is head of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, said the layoff notices were very disappointing.
“This is very disappointing, and definitely not anything we were anticipating after the (municipal) fee increase.” She said the city and union were in negotiations and is hopeful an agreement can be reached that does not include layoffs.
“We’ve lost three people in the last two years and those were not filled so we’re already down in staff,” Wagner said. “Chief and all, we only have 16 people. If they lay off those five, it leaves only 11.” She described the staff at the police department as some of the best she has ever worked with.
Blankenship said he is working diligently with the unions and hopes to come to a resolution as well but said, “I only have so much money to work with.”
Budget woes have plagued the city for the past year with a possible solution having another agency take over its dispatching.
City officials have met on several occasions with the sheriff and Lawrence County Commissioners about the possibility of the county taking over the city’s dispatching.
Sheriff Jeff Lawless has estimated to do that he would have to hire two full-time employees and a part-time employee with a total cost of about $125,000 to the city.
Ironton officials are also in negotiations with Greenup County about having their dispatchers handle Ironton calls.
About a week ago the commissioners put the 911 dispatching under the authority of the sheriff.
That consolidation is expected to take effect in eight months. Lawless expects to have to hire three full-time and a part-time dispatchers.