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Jeannette police agree to rotating layoffs; firefighters, other workers take pay cuts

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By Richard Gazarik
Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The city of Jeannette has reached a tentative contract with police officers, who agreed to rotating layoffs to avoid the outright furloughs of at least four full-time patrolmen, Mayor Robert Carter said.

The city's three paid firefighters tentatively have agreed to take a 5 percent pay cut and the $7.25-an-hour pay for on-call firefighters will be reduced, he said Thursday.

The salaries of city clerk Mike Minyon Jr., community development coordinator Diana Reitz and street foreman Rich Ault could be cut by 10 percent, Carter said. Last year, Minyon earned $55,920; Reitz, $52,533; and Ault, $54,529, according to payroll records.

“We're going to be taking some wage reductions. The actual numbers probably will be around that area,” Carter said.

Minyon said at least five employees will be notified Friday that they will be laid off March 11 as part of the city's cost-cutting to avoid being declared a financially distressed municipality subject to state oversight.

“We've had 100 percent cooperation with all three unions,” Carter said. “The police department was the first to step up.”

If council approves the agreement reached with police Wednesday, officers' wages will be frozen in the first year, followed by 1, 2 and 3 percent increases in the remaining years of the contract. Council will vote on the contract at its March meeting.

The city will eliminate three part-time police officer positions on the 12-member force. Full-time officers will be laid off for two-week periods, then recalled, according to the agreement.

While the city still has to pay health care, the agreement means “a big chunk of savings in salaries,” Carter said.

City attorney Scott Avolio said the police contract terms are the same that the Fraternal Order of Police rejected previously.

“The city is pleased that the police union has reconsidered their prior decision and are now willing to cooperate in assisting the city through its current financial struggle,” he said. “The city is looking forward to participating in this multiyear contract so that it will have the necessary labor cost information to prepare long-term financial goals and to implement the corresponding long-term financial decisions.”

Reducing the size of the police force by four and hiring a private firm to collect garbage were two of the recommendations a state consultant made in 2010 to help the city avoid financial collapse.

Carter said officials have not decided whether to contract garbage collection.

Jeannette officials are trying to avoid being declared a distressed city. The state Department of Community and Economic Development agreed to take a “hands-on” approach to help the city with its financial recovery plan. A state official will attend council meetings to offer advice on balancing the budget and other financial matters.

Of immediate concern is finding the revenue to pay last year's $350,000 mandatory contribution to the police pension fund, along with more than $235,000 in damages and legal fees to a city businessman and his attorney.

Council had been considering filing for municipal bankruptcy until officials learned that by seeking bankruptcy protection, the city automatically would fall into Act 47.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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