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Vacant posts to remain unfilled in Plum

| Friday, Nov. 28, 2003

Two openings in Plum's public works department will go unfilled as part of officials' effort to trim a half-mill from a proposed tax hike.

The move will reduce the department's roster from 21 to 19 workers. Extended medical leaves have left the department down two workers since September, borough Manager Ken Gabler said. The jobs of workers expected to retire in 2004 will go unfilled, Gabler said .

The cutbacks are part of several measures being undertaken to reduce a proposed tax hike to 1.28 mills from the 1.78-mill increase originally budgeted.

Public works employees are paid between $18 and $19 an hour.

Other cost-cutting moves include hiring part-time rather than full-time police to supplement the department's existing roster of 23 officers.

A public hearing on the preliminary budget is set for Wednesday after a 6:30 work session, with a vote on the final budget expected Dec. 8.

Bill Berchick, the borough's public works superintendent, was unavailable for comment.

Word that the two public works jobs will be lost comes along with the season's first spate of winter weather, but Gabler insists the move won't affect road conditions for borough drivers.

"We're trying to do more with less and be more efficient -- not undercut services," Councilman Jeff Russo said.

Negotiations are continuing on a new contract with public works department employees, Russo said. The workers are represented by Teamsters Local 205. The current four-year deal expires Dec. 31.

Bill Bennie, union steward for the public works employees, has declined to comment on the talks.

Russo declined to disclose specifics, but said, "we are getting closer (to a contract) at every meeting. I think we're moving toward each other."

Plum in a previous proposal offered a 2.3 percent annual wage hike.

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