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Furloughed Clairton workers want back on the job

| Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

Furloughed Clairton city employees are asking council when they will return to work.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Emmanuel Lewis, a furloughed public works department employee, asked for an update on his job status. The city furloughed six employees three secretaries and three public works department members in April, citing "cash flow issues."

Lewis questioned the use of students to mow city lots and perform other maintenance tasks. The students were hired by a variety of other organizations and are not taxpayer funded.

"There's no work for us," Lewis said. "Why didn't (anybody) ask us if we wanted to supervise these young people• The young people are doing a beautiful job, but they're doing our jobs."

Councilman Lamont Lewis, who pointed out that Emmanuel Lewis is his brother but that he did not have a hand in his hiring, said he thinks "taxpayer dollars are being used the wrong way" in not bringing back furloughed employees.

"We're in a situation where when these guys go to arbitration or wherever they go, they're going to win," he said. "I think we should find out how much money there is, bring those people back till the money runs out, then lay them off."

Mayor Richard Lattanzi said the city is trying to be fiscally responsible by examining the budget and trying to make payroll and pay all necessary bills.

Council initially adopted a $3,169,175 budget Jan. 4 that included a .5 percent increase to the earned income tax, then reopened the budget in March to include a 5-mill increase on land.

The move brought the tax rates to 33 mills on land, with the 2.22 mills on buildings remaining unchanged. One mill generates approximately $30,000 for the city.

Furloughed secretary Wilma Robinson said she just "needs to know something" about her employment status.

"This was only supposed to be until June. This is August," she said. "We were told April 1 that by June, taxes would be coming in and we could be brought back on. Now it's a different story."

Lattanzi said the city will continue to re-evaluate its finances and make the best decisions possible.

"Until we're fiscally sound, we can't bring anyone back," Lattanzi said. "It's just one day at a time until our financial situation gets better."

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