Council and union to host open forum

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2004

City leaders in Ironton have often said they are open to any ideas to generate revenue and cut costs.

The city's union is ready to take them up on the offer.

At the request of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 771, the Ironton City Council called a special meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at the city center to facilitate an open exchange of ideas. The meeting will be open to everyone including the community, the council, Mayor John Elam, AFSCME and the police and fire unions.

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The 51-member AFSCME union includes the street, sanitation, flood, water, sewer, police dispatchers, income tax, water collection office and the meter maid.

"We would like as many citizens there as possible. Their input is important," AFSCME President Joe Johnson said. "What comes out of this meeting will affect this whole town. Either services will be lost or will be kept."

Much of the concern stems from the city's gap of more than $500,000

between revenues and expenses that has necessitated that 10 city employees will be laid off May 1.

Eight union members will be without jobs - three employees in the sanitation department, three in the street department, a water department clerk and either the meter maid or a custodian once those two positions are combined.

Two non-union administrative employees will also be laid off - the assistant code enforcement officer and the facilities manager. Also, the vacant position of economic development director will not be filled.

Water department employee Kenny Miller complimented Mayor Elam on his willingness to talk with the union and consider all ideas. Miller proposed several ideas, including charging a $25 fee for every BFI dumpster in town, fixing many water meters that have been broken for at least five years, collect on delinquent water bills and enforce laws that are already in place.

"I know there is not a quick fix unless someone comes up and says, 'here is $600,000,'" Miller said. "A nickel here or a dime there will make a difference."

Above all, Miller said he is concerned about all the jobs in the city, not just the union positions, because in the end it will be "will be the people of Ironton who come up on the short end of the stick."

"The future depends on us, on all of us. I have been around this city my whole life," Miller said. "There might not be a whole lot to it, but I love it."

Council Chairman Jim Tordiff thanked Miller because he "speaks from the heart" and is truly trying to be part of the solution.

In other business, council unanimously voted to authorize architectural firm Shawn Walker & Associates Inc. to finish design work for developing more than 5,800 square feet of the 13,640 square foot top floor of the city center.

The design work is the first step towards attracting businesses to locate in the downtown building.

Walker's firm will design the layout, plumbing, mechanical and electrical details for the area that will be used as office space for the municipal court and could accommodate new tenants.