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Porterdale lifts furloughs for employees

PORTERDALE -- The Porterdale City Council heeded the complaints of citizens who expressed their displeasure with employee furloughs that left the town without police protection for four hours in the early mornings.

At a work session Tuesday, the mayor and council instructed City Manager Bob Thomson to lift the furloughs for all employees, effectively reinstating 24-hour police patrols by the Porterdale Police Department.

The council voted in July to furlough all employees for four hours per week, or 10 percent of their 40-hour work week.

In December the council approved a budget that included the furloughs, which represented a savings of $32,123 on an annual basis. At the time, Thomson recommended that the furloughs be continued until the city had a better idea of what cash flows would be like in the new year.

Mayor Arline Chapman said Wednesday that Tuesday night's work session was dedicated to reviewing the budget, with council members going over the document looking for changes that would make it possible to eliminate the furloughs.

"We had several council members who were examining the budget, trying to find ways to get our Police Department back to 24 hours a day, and we accomplished that," Chapman said.

The mayor added that the council will be watching expenditures and cash flows on a month-to-month basis in order to make sure the city stays on solid financial footing.

"Some months are better than others, and we are hoping we can keep it all balanced out and in place," Chapman said.

Thomson said the revenue to reinstate employees to 40 hours per week will come from transfers from other funds in the budget.

"We had money budgeted in the contingency fund and we took some money out of contingency and put it in salaries for public works and city hall staff and the Police Department, which is why we are going to be careful in watching it month to month," said Thomson. "We think we'll be OK."

Thomson said $3,000 of the needed funds will come from the Water and Sewer Fund and will be reimbursed later in the year. The larger portion, about $29,000 will come from the contingency fund, which will leave about $24,000 in the fund.

Personnel costs make up the largest percentage of Porterdale's expense budget. With the elimination of the furloughs, the city's 16 full-time and part-time employees are budgeted to earn about $530,000 in salary and benefits in 2012.

Employees will be reinstated to full employment at the beginning of the next pay period on Monday, Thomson said.

Police Chief Geoff Jacobs said the Police Department will resume full 12-hour shifts, with an officer on duty 24 hours a day. Under the furloughs, the city was without police patrols four hours each day, from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Several residents had complained to the City Council about the lack of police protection, saying that those who were up to no good knew when there was no officer on duty.

Chapman praised the efforts of City Council members to find a way to reinstate city workers to full employment.

"The council worked well on this," she said. "It was a good team effort, and everyone worked well together."