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Council mulls layoffs

10 jobs on chopping block due to structural financial issue, economic downturn
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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The fate of 10 city of Auburn employees remained uncertain as of press time Monday night. Citing budget cuts and a grim economic climate, city leader have been looking at layoffs and also voted to offer eight eligible employees a two-year retirement service credit earlier this month. The council was expected to vote at its regular meeting Monday night on layoffs affecting city Airport Manager Jerry Martin, Senior Accounting Technician Elisabeth Davis, the city's lead custodian, custodian, senior building inspector, office assistant, facilities maintenance worker, information technology manager, administrative assistant and police department records clerk. The layoff proposal is being voted on days after Martin said he was escorted by police out of his office and issued a letter stating he would be placed on administrative leave effective immediately. This just came out of the clear blue, Martin said by phone from home March 14, the day he was escorted out of his office. I have been working like crazy to get airport business done and I have not a clue, absolutely not a clue, what this is about. City Manager Bob Richardson confirmed that Martin was escorted out of his office by an Auburn policeman and placed on leave, but said he couldn't discuss the issue further. It's a personnel matter, Richardson said. I cannot speak to personnel matters. Richardson did say that the decision to place Martin on administrative leave was based on an investigation. The pending investigation involves concerns with the security and/or efficient operations of the city airport, Richardson said. It's not a disciplinary item, it's an investigative item at this time. If approved by the council, the layoffs would take effect March 29. The layoffs are just part of an overall severance package city officials have prepared. City Council members voted 3-0 March 10 to make public a two-year retirement service credit. Eight employees are currently eligible to participate in the incentive program, which city officials said would cost the city about $276,000 up front, but could ultimately save the city roughly $640,000 a year if all eligible employees participated. Richardson told the Journal in a previous interview that the consideration of layoffs came a result of several economic factors. The first thing is a structural financial issue that the city has struggled with for a couple of decades, Richardson said. This was an issue we knew was coming and prepared for. However, at the same time, we are feeling the effects of an economic downturn and the state is shifting its budget problems to the cities, which required the need to take action. Richardson said city officials have been bolstering reserves for years and cutting back on expenditures in anticipation of the city's structural financial problem. In other business Monday night, Mayor Keith Nesbitt proclaimed March 30 through April 5 Boys & Girls Club week in Auburn. The council also voted 4-0 to approve a second residential units ordinance amendment. Councilwoman Bridget Powers was absent. The ordinance complies with a state law passed in 2003, stating that a jurisdiction could not require use permits for second residential units, city senior planner Reg Murray said. The council also voted 4-0 to hold a joint workshop with the city planning commission within 30 days to discuss the possible development of a hillside ordinance. Mark D'Ambrogi, city fire chief, and Valerie Harris, Auburn Police chief, also presented annual reports to the council. See Wednesday's Journal for the complete report. The Journal's Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.