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Cut all but 12 employees?

Posted 8/23/12

Council looks to consolidate 3 departments into Public Works

By Daniel Walmer Press And Journal Staff Middletown Borough Council voted 6-1 on Monday, Aug. 20 to advertise an ordinance consolidating the borough’s highway, electric and …

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Cut all but 12 employees?

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dennisleonardgroundbreakingCouncil looks to consolidate 3 departments into Public Works

By Daniel Walmer

Press And Journal Staff

Middletown Borough Council voted 6-1 on Monday, Aug. 20 to advertise an ordinance consolidating the borough’s highway, electric and water and sewer departments as bureaus under a Department of Public Works headed by Borough Manager Tim Konek – a move some said would lead to “increased efficiency” but others called “union-busting.”

While discussing the ordinance, Mayor Robert Reid asked council to deny a rumor that the borough would use the consolidation to help reduce staff in the three departments to a total of 12 full-time employees.

“There is no way this borough would function with 12 employees,” said Reid.  “No way in the world.”

Council President Chris McNamara said 12 employees is a recommended goal proposed by experts who have compared Middletown to municipalities like Grove City, which has a similar population and a municipal electric system.  

The borough has not made any final staffing decisions, however, and plans to form a working group to determine staffing needs after Public Works is created, said McNamara.

The idea to create Public Works stemmed from a discussion with department heads about ways to reduce each department’s budget by 15 percent as previously directed by council, said Chris Courogen, borough secretary and director of communications.

“What you’re looking for is increased efficiency,” said Courogen, because the consolidation would eliminate the current “separate fiefdoms” that legally prohibit employees from performing any tasks outside of their department.  

google-chrome-logo1“I think we’d like to have a system where a $38-per-hour employee doesn’t have to change a light bulb,” he said.

Others view the borough’s goal from a different perspective, however – such as former council member Rachelle Reid, who said it is easier to get rid of union employees during a structural reorganization than by cutting individual positions.

“That is what you do when you want to do union-busting,” she said. “That’s what it is.”

Councilor Scott Sites, who opposed the motion, also questioned the borough’s ultimate goal in creating the department.