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Crunch claims street boss

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002

MONESSEN - Frank Francia knows what it's like to be laid off from a job.

In 1988, on his 41st birthday, Francia was laid off from the former Volkswagen plant in East Huntingdon Township.

"Happy birthday, see ya later," was how Francia described it.

And now, Francia knows what it's like to be on the other end of the system - as a grim reaper of sorts.

As city administrator for cash-strapped Monessen, Francia was the bearer of bad news to Mark SantaColombo, the city's superintendent of streets and parks.

Francia told SantaColombo on Monday that he would be laid off Dec. 31.

The move followed a decision to lay off four police dispatchers and a police officer.

The action was taken in an effort to overcome an expected $300,000 budget shortfall.

"Hopefully, this will be the end of it," Francia said of the layoffs. "Right now, it looks like it is."

Councilman George Zboyovsky, director of streets -...and SantaColombo's immediate supervisor'.

"There was a time we thought we'd get away without this layoff, but the numbers just didn't add up," Zboyovsky said. "This was a last resort."

SantaColombo, who was hired as streets and parks superintendent about about a year-and-a-half ago, was disappointed by the decision.

"I heard a rumor on the streets Friday that I was going to be dismissed, and then I got the word Monday that I'm being laid off," he said.

"I left a company where I worked loyally for 22 years to come back to my hometown to try and make a difference. And so many people have told me what a good job I'm doing.

"This hurts. This hurts really bad. I feel like I'm letting all those people who supported me down because I won't be there to help them when they call."

Francia said the decision to lay off SantaColombo was "budgetary."

"It's a personnel decision. He's the youngest guy down there," Francia said of SantaColombo, who oversees 11 employees.

SantaColombo said he hopes to eventually return to work.

"I love what I do," he said. "I work hard for the city. I think I made a difference."

Francia said he is hopeful SantaColombo will be called back.

"We're hopeful we can call all of them back at some point," he said of the furloughed employees.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the future. Right now, they are on layoff status with no known recall date at this time."

Zboyovsky said it is important that SantaColombo return at some point.

"That department can't go by without a full-time supervisor," Zboyovsky said.

"We hope to get Mark back at some capacity."

SantaColombo said he is the first supervisor in city history to be laid off.

"Guys told me that at one time, when things were tough, guys talked about working 32-hour weeks so nobody would be laid off," he said. "Why was that not discussed now?"

Francia said he didn't want the decision to lay off the supervisor to appear to be personal, "because it isn't."

"Do I like laying people off• No," Francia said. "Do I like being a part of it• No. It's just one of those things.

"It's certainly not a fun part of the job."

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