WILKES-BARRE – Mayor George Brown announced on Tuesday that there will be layoffs in 2021, and described some services residents can expect to cut.

At a press conference at the Downtown Innovation Center, Brown said a deadlock with a city council majority over his 2021 budget proposal would result in a “significant downsizing” of the city’s workforce, which will require “dramatic changes” in some services.Watch the video of the press conference.

According to the mayor, the service cuts, which will likely begin in January, include:

n Limits on the number of recycling containers that can be placed at the curb, less frequent collections and indefinite suspension of the recycling depot at the yard of the Ministry of Public Works.

Garden waste will no longer be collected from the curb or accepted in the DPW yard, and DPW workers will no longer be picking up Christmas trees for disposal.

n DPW will no longer provide aisle identification painting services.

n Complaints about tall grass and weeds will no longer be a priority.

n The city will no longer help with sewer blockages that are the owner’s responsibility, only with blockages that occur on the street side of the curb.

Brown also said there was a possibility that there could be significant delays in the snow removal.“Fortunately, we had the resources to do this cleanup,” Brown said, referring to photos of snow-capped vehicles on a snow-capped city street after a 2017 blizzard hit a wall behind him. “What I’m telling you folks is we might not have these resources for 2021,” Brown said.

All cuts Brown described are the responsibility of the DPW, but it said he would consider cuts across all departments.

The standoff with board members Tony Brooks, John Marconi and Beth Gilbert McBride stems from their refusal to allow the doubling of the annual wastewater haulage and recycling fee from $ 50 each to $ 100 each, which would net 2 million dollars in revenue.

Board members said they would be ready to approve increases of $ 25, but Brown said the increases of $ 35 are the lowest he can accept and maintain services near their current levels. .

Brown said he would meet with officials from the State Department of Community and Economic Development and Public Financial Management, the city’s financial adviser, on Wednesday to review the city’s finances and discuss possible recommendations.

Brown also said it was “unfair” for board members to ask unions for big concessions before agreeing to fee increases, along with Gilbert McBride calling unions “greedy” not to accept wage freezes. . He provided a list of concessions made by unions over the past three years.

DPW workers agreed to a wage freeze in 2018, town hall and firefighters took one in 2019, and police took one this year. Each union has also made concessions on health care and pensions in their latest bargaining sessions.

Brooks said his main concern “is those long-term, low-income senior homeowners who receive a 1.3% (cost-of-living adjustment) in 2021. What the federal government gives, local governments take away, between the school tax increases and the proposed fees It’s not fair to people in difficulty.

He also said Congress should “pass the current stimulus bill, which includes money for financially strapped cities to retain public employees.”

Marconi said that he, Brooks and McBride presented the administration with 25 ideas for generating more income or reducing expenses, “and they just said nothing would work. We had some solid ideas there, but they did. all shot. ”Still, he said, he is open to more discussion.

McBride said she and her colleagues have always said “there should be no layoffs”. She acknowledged the concessions of unions under previous administrations, “but they did not concede anything during a pandemic when so many people were made redundant and lost their jobs.”

“The mayor is trying to hand this over to council, and we have given him every opportunity to compromise,” she said.

Councilor Mike Belusko said the situation was “unfortunate, but (Councilor) Bill Barrett and I saw it coming”. He said the $ 35 fee increases were “fair.” … We are talking about $ 20 to save jobs and not see our services cut.

Barrett said he was concerned about “safety, obviously, resident services, and of course the layoffs for staff. It’s a bit overwhelming… $ 10 on recycling and $ 10 on sewer charges, it’s not that far when you look at it over the course of a year.

He said Brown’s proposal was “fair to everyone”.


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