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City doubles garbage layoffs

Brookhaven aldermen Monday moved close to a balanced solid wastebudget with a decision to lay off 10 department employees, which isdouble the number of workers originally targeted for release lastweek.

“I’ll just have to go talk, see what I can do and work somethingout,” said Sanitation Department Superintendent James “Peanut”Arnold as he left the approximately one-hour meeting lastnight.

Arnold’s department will be reduced to 16 employees.

Most of Monday’s meeting was held in executive session as cityofficials discussed the personnel reductions. City Attorney JoeFernald said lay off decisions would be based on seniority andemployees’ qualifications that are necessary for the city’s solidwaste operation.

“Those decisions will be be made, hopefully, in the next fewdays,” Fernald said.

Faced with a projected $152,351 deficit, aldermen last weektargeted five solid waste employees for lay off.

However, Mayor Bill Godbold said basic employee costs wereunderestimated and five employees were not enough. He said more layoffs may be possible if last night’s reductions were insufficientin reducing the deficit.

In salary-related costs, City Clerk Iris Rudman said the 10 jobreductions will save $130,362. She said additional savings could berealized in insurance costs.

“With fewer employees, we’ll have less to pay in healthinsurance premiums,” Rudman said.

Prior to going into the closed session for personnel reasons,Ward 2 Aldermen Terry Bates suggested the possibility of movingemployees to other city departments. Godbold indicated that wouldnot be possible.

“We’ve got the budget set at a certain level, and we can’t addanything either way,” the mayor said.

A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discussthe general fund, water and sewer and solid waste departmentbudgets. The budgets include no tax levy rate increases forproperty owners, no money for new city equipment and no funds foremployee pay raises, although an expected 29.5 percent healthinsurance premium increase is covered in spending plans.

“Nothing’s changed in the budget. We’re just driving it down,”Godbold said last night about the solid waste budget.

In another solid waste matter, aldermen reaffirmed a commercialgarbage pick up schedule change from six days a week to three daysa week. Arnold expressed some concerns about the change last week,but board members Monday night opted to stay with theMonday-Wednesday-Friday pick up schedule approved at Tuesday’smeeting.

“We’ll have to start it week after next,” Arnold said, citingMonday’s Labor Day holiday.

City officials hope the reduced commercial schedule will savesome money on overtime costs from Saturday service. Godbold said hebelieves the change will help, but he added the city will try toassist customers with pick up needs when possible.

“If somebody has a problem, we’ll try to help them out,” themayor said.