CG mayor lays off workers, for now

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 4, 2000

COAL GROVE – Three laid-off village employees might return to work within three months, if the weather breaks and it’s financially feasible, Mayor Tom McKnight told council members Thursday night.

Friday, February 04, 2000

COAL GROVE – Three laid-off village employees might return to work within three months, if the weather breaks and it’s financially feasible, Mayor Tom McKnight told council members Thursday night.

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McKnight directed village administrator Mark Dean to lay off one general laborer and two water department employees in mid-January, citing budget restrictions.

General fund dollars have been depleted each year by subsidizing the police department budget and other expenses, McKnight said.

"And I’ve seen too much salary versus services," he said. "I did it regretfully. I know there’s a difference of opinion among council members."

Council member Larry McDaniel said budget money could have supported the employees.

"I hope we don’t get to this being an annual thing where we lay off people in the winter when there’s not any work," he said.

But councilman Phillip Roush said he was neutral about the mayor’s decision.

"You’ve got a new mayor who doesn’t want to get into trouble, financially, down the road," he said. "I think it’s the mayor’s right."

McKnight said the village receives less income tax revenue each year and has a less-than-sufficient $140,000 in the general fund, yet council agreed to 40-cent across-the-board salary increases for the next three years.

"With an $82,000 deficit in the police department, my argument is does the village exist because we want to have services for the people or does it exist to create jobs?" he said. "I thought it prudent to put the brakes on this."

Council member Ray Bentley cited the village’s $427,000 total budget as enough to keep the three employees.

"The reason I’m not in favor is we don’t have enough people working," Bentley said.

Last week, village officials did not have enough employees to handle a water break and direct traffic around the break at the same time, he said.

"There are other ways to save money other than laying off employees we need," Bentley said. "Anything that costs us money, unless the village absolutely needs it, I’ll vote against it."

Council member John Aldridge said salaries must come from specific parts of the budget and the mayor’s decision looks like a short-term solution to a budget problem.

"It doesn’t appear the funds are in there at the present time," Aldridge said, adding that layoffs cannot be a long-term solution. "But there’s no alternative right now."

Councilman Eric Holmes said the mayor based layoffs on financial woes and his past experience as village mayor.

"He has certain goals he wants to accomplish as mayor," Holmes said. "I’m sure his decision to lay off employees was based on knowledge of the amount of money he has been used to before."

The three newest employees, hired last year, were laid off according to contract rules, and McKnight said he will call them back as soon as possible.

"This is not political," he said. "I respect everyone here, but the village exists to get things done for the people and I will treat employees right."

Although council members might feel water department funding is in good shape, there has to be enough to run the department and cover emergencies that could cost the village thousands of dollars, McKnight said.

The village also needs to look at boosting police funding, maybe through more court fines returned to the village, he said.

"We’ve got to figure out a way to get some revenue back."

McKnight asked the council’s police committee to meet about the department’s funding.

In other action Thursday night, the Coal Grove Council:

– Added chief investigator Tim Sexton of the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office back to the village police auxiliary roster by a 3-2 vote.

Previous action by council removed Sexton and four others from the roster, cutting liability insurance expenses. Police officials agreed with the four cuts, but requested Sexton be reinstated.

"The police chief says he does make a contribution to the police force and $179 for a year’s time is worth it," Holmes said.

The auxiliary officers are not in cruisers working for the village and cutting from the roster is a better way of lowering expenses than laying off needed employees, Bentley said.

The measure passed. Bentley and McDaniel voted no.

– Discussed buying $4,400 in fireworks for the village’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

The company offers more fireworks for the same price if the deal is approved early, according to a letter.

Roush made a motion to buy the fireworks. The motion died for lack of a second.

– Donated $1,000 to the Lawrence County Drug Task Force. The money will come from a special village fund built from DUI fines and set aside for drug enforcement.