money.jpg

The Lawrence County commissioners are proposing a 3 percent wage rollback on employees unaffected by forthcoming courthouse closings.

The cuts would affect the jail and the 911 center, which are 24-hour operations, and the coroner’s office, which is on call.

The commissioners voted 3-0 Friday — Dan Vogler casting his vote by phone from Harrisburg — to shut down the courthouse for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a way to save money.

In a resolution, they cited the lack of a state budget as the sole reason. They are anticipating a $900,000 shortfall caused by the paying of employees from the county’s general fund, who typically would be paid with state funds.

Since the state budget impasse, the reimbursements from Harrsiburg have temporarily stopped flowing.

The courthouse will close from Nov. 23 through Nov. 27 and from Dec. 21, through Dec. 28 to net some of the savings.

County employees will be laid off those days, and they will not be compensated for the holidays of Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In addition to payroll savings, Commissioner Chairman Steve Craig estimated the county will save $5,000 to $10,000 in utility and heating costs by closing the courthouse.

“We need to achieve these savings or we’re not going to make it to yearend,” he said.

The workers will be paid for their Dec. 28 holiday, but the courthouse will remain closed that day as well, representing more savings in utility costs, Craig said.



EXPLANATIONS

Several department heads and employees attended yesterday’s commissioners’ meeting, which resumed after it was recessed Tuesday.

The commissioners advised the employees to consult with human resources director Karen King about how to file for unemployment compensation.

King said she prepared her own filing, which she will show to employees as an example. She intends to invite a representative from CareerLink to the courthouse to talk to them as well.

The exceptions to the layoffs are employees of the jail, the county’s public safety department, which includes the 911 center, and the coroner’s office. The coroner’s office has three part-time deputies and one full-time deputy.

The jail has 54 full-time workers who are members of Construction and General Laborers Union Local 964. They have been asked to accept the 3 percent rollback of their wages instead of the 10-day holiday-time furloughs, Craig said.

Controller David Gettings said the union plans to vote Tuesday or Wednesday. If the members vote no, the county officials will meet and decide another way to achieve savings through that bargaining unit, Craig said.

He said the commissioners automatically will impose the 3 percent reduction on the jail management, the public safety force and coroner’s staff, which are non-union.

Gettings pointed out that the furloughs constitute about a 3.8 percent cut of the other employees’ wages.



REASONABLE MEASURES

“Our goal is not to lay anybody off permanently,” Craig reasoned. The commissioners also are cutting back staff through attrition, early retirement and hiring freezes, he said.

Craig said that management of the county’s adult and juvenile probation offices will be on call, and a similar plan is being formulated for Children and Youth Services.

“We realize it’s just impossible to shut down that agency if a child is abused or needs a safe haven,” Craig said.

Vogler pointed out that the commissioners have received numerous e-mails from real estate agents and banks expressing concern about the closing during Thanksgiving week, because of the Nov. 30 deadline for the federal government’s $8,000 real estate tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

Craig said that Register and Recorder Janet Kalajainen has assured the commissioners that no matter how busy Nov. 30 is, she will work that day until all business that needs to be transacted is completed. Her office records property deeds.

Prothonotary Helen I. Morgan has agreed to the same. Her office maintains information on liens and judgments filed against property owners.



VACATION DAYS

Craig noted that the county is allowing the employees to carry 10 vacation days over into next year. Five of those days must be taken before April. 1, according to King.

The carryover is being permitted because many employees already had planned vacation time for the holidays, Craig said.

Of the layoff and wage cutting measures, he commented, “This comes at no small inconvenience to the public, but we have no other option at this point.

“We are asking the employees in this organization to forego their paychecks, and I’m mad about this. This is a terrible, terrible thing that we’ve had to put them in this position.”

The plan was one that all of the department heads and the courts agreed on, Commissioner Rick DeBlasio added.

“You do a wonderful job, “ he told the employees. “We are in new waters here. There is no happy day here, but at least we’re sitting down and trying to work it out. They’re not doing that in Harrisburg. This is the plan we came up with as a group.”

Trending Video

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.