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New London Public Works Department to lay off 3, make other cost-saving reductions

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published May 04. 2012 5:00PM   Updated May 05. 2012 12:49AM

New London — Come June 30, the Public Works Department will lay off three employees, close the transfer station on Saturdays, and will not hire six seasonal workers to help maintain the city's parks this summer.

The cuts come following a decision by the City Council to cut about $940,000 from the proposed $9.8 million public works budget.

"There are no other savings,'' Public Works Director Timothy Hanser said Friday. "After the council passed their (budget) ordinance on Monday, I went through every account line, almost starting from scratch."

In addition, the city will not pick up garbage next winter during snowstorms, and there will be no curbside pickup of Christmas trees. Also, seven vacancies in the department will not be filled.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who announced the layoffs Friday afternoon, commended Hanser for his "long hours of work to organize the department in a way that maximizes efficiency and meets our difficult budget requirements."

In the last two decades, the Public Works Department has shrunk from 94 employees to 49 today, but the workload has increased, Finizio said.

"In addition, equipment in the department is past due for replacement or upgrade," he said.

"These cuts are dramatic in a department already pushed to the brink of its ability to function."

The transfer station, where hours already were cut back this spring to 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., will no longer be open on Saturdays. In addition to not picking up discarded Christmas trees, the department is suspending curbside pickup of yard waste. Residents will be able to bring yard waste to the transfer station.

The seasonal workers are assistants who generally take care of the city's athletic fields and parks in the summer, Hanser said.

All the changes will take place June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.

The mayor had proposed a $9.8 million public works budget for 2012-13, which would have been about a $700,000 increase. But this year, the department is expecting to spend about $260,000 more than budgeted, bringing its estimated 2011-12 budget to $9.5 million

"There's been some underfunding and some unexpected expenditures,'' Hanser said, explaining the shortfall in the current budget. For instance, when the city's ladder truck broke down, public works had to pay for the repairs, he said.

The mayor said further layoffs in other departments and reductions in services would be announced shortly.

On Monday, the City Council approved an $83 million budget for 2012-13, which is about a 1.5 percent spending increase over the $81.845 million budget that was adopted last year.

The proposed budget represents about an 8.3 percent increase in taxes. If approved, the mill rate would increase by about 2.11 mills, bring the tax rate to 27.42 mills.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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