Commission lays off two part-timers

Published 10:11 am Friday, March 20, 2009

Money — how to get the most bang for their buck and how to keep more of those bucks in the county general fund — was the major topic of discussion Thursday at the Lawrence County Commission meeting.

The commissioners agreed to lay off two recently-hired part-timers and agreed to allow a Cincinnati outfit to conduct a study of energy use at some county-owned buildings.

In a move meant to show leadership among county officeholders at a tough financial time, the commission laid off a part-time dog warden and a part-time maintenance worker. Both positions were paid $9 an hour and worked approximately 20 hours a week.

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Commissioners anticipate saving $18,720 annually by eliminating these two positions.

Commissioner Les Boggs said while the commission has enacted other moves to save money, “this (the layoffs) is a step in the right direction.”

Boggs said this is meant to prove the commissioners are indeed leaders and back up what they say by showing they are willing to cut their budget while asking other officeholders to cut theirs.

Commissioner Jason Stephens pointed out the two eliminated positions were meant to be cost-saving measures in the first place: commissioners last year replaced full-time positions with part-time jobs that do not have fringe benefits such as health insurance and retirement.

Stephens agreed with Boggs that the county commission has made several moves in the last eight years to save money.

The board, he said, has laid off employees four times in the last eight years. Seven people were laid off in 2001, including janitors, a telephone operator, a human resources staffer and 911 addressing employee.

In 2002, 14 people at the Child Support Enforcement Agency lost their jobs. In 2007, three positions were eliminated at the 911/EMA Agency and this year six were laid off from Children’s Services.

But, Stephens said, “It (laying off workers) never gets any easier.”

Commissioners lamented the need for layoffs at Children’s Services, especially in light of this week’s drug bust that netted 12 arrests at three Ironton residences.

Commissioner Doug Malone pointed out that children were taken out of those homes at a time when, “We just laid off half our (Children’s Services) workforce.”

With cost savings in mind, the commission agreed to allow the Cincinnati-based Perfection Group to conduct walk-throughs of the courthouse, 911/EMA office and the sheriff’s office to determine what changes could be made to save money on utilities.

That company recently conducted an energy analysis and determined the county is spending $110,000 annually on those three buildings.

Perfection Group Sales Associate Jerry Noble said he believes 10-20 percent of that amount could be saved, $5,000 or more at the sheriff’s office alone.

Noble said one thing this company looks at is whether existing systems can be tweaked to save money, as opposed to purchasing new equipment.

“We’ve found that w can provide tremendous savings without having to replace things.” Noble said. “Sometimes we can’t do that but we will look.”

Rick Anderson, Perfection Group’s business development specialist, said HB 295, passed last year, would allow counties to get third-party financing for energy conservation projects as long as the project pays for itself.

The financing can be done for up to 30 years.