The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 29, 2013

Bula to borrow to offer early retirement

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA —  The city is planning for more changes this year.

Amidst a standing-room-only crowd, City Council discussed an early retirement package and pending reorganization of the public works and sanitation departments. The cost-cutting comes as the city braces for tight budgets and layoffs.

City Manager Jim Timonere proposed the city borrow $100,000 to urge public works and sanitation employees who are ready to retire to take an early severance plan. The offer would be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Timonere said he plans to provide employees with more details by next week.

City Solicitor Michael Franklin suggested the employees must retire by June 1 with notice given by April 1.

“When the $100,000 is used up, there will be no more buy-outs,” Timonere said.

Ward 5 Councilman James Trisket said he recalled former city auditor Michael Zullo saying the city can’t borrow money for payroll, and this seemed like borrowing for payroll.

President J.P. Ducro IV said borrowing this money will get the city a younger workforce and reduce healthcare expenses.

City Auditor Dana Pinkert said it’s a pension liability issue.

“This loan will help us end the year in the black,” Pinkert said.

Timonere, who had said there would be nine layoffs in public works and sanitation, said it now looks more like there will be five layoffs unless five people take the buy-outs. People retiring in other departments, allowing others to move job assignments, saved four jobs, he said.

The city manager also discussed his plan to combine public works and sanitation departments in an attempt to deal with call-offs.

Dom Iarocci, superintendent of public services, said he’s not opposed to the merger, but he’s opposed to any layoffs.

“Rather than putting money into unemployment, put it into salary,” he said.

Iarocci then gave a long list of all the duties of the public works department, including cleaning the beach, catch basins, mowing grass, snow removal, filling potholes and more.

Iarocci said, “If you want to merge and reduce manpower, give me a blueprint on how you want me to do it.”

Council will vote on these measures Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.