How the proposed budget would impact Utica's DPW
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - We've been talking about the state of Utica's finances for several weeks now. By now you know Mayor Robert Palmieri's budget proposal includes an 18% tax hike and 38 layoffs. There are deep cuts to the fire and police departments-- but they are not the only departments that will be affected.
The proposal includes laying off 12.5% of the employees at the Department of Public Works. "We're definitely in trouble. And every department will do what they can to help out," says DPW Commissioner David Short
Right now 9 employees will be laid off if the budget stays as is. A tough hit considering the department as a whole is only made up of 72 Teamsters. "It's a pretty heart wrenching thing that you have to come back here and tell these guys that they are losing their jobs," says Short. "But it's something that has to be done. Hopefully for the betterment of the city. As the mayor says, it's the city that we are trying to save."
The DPW is responsible for maintaining the roads all year long- they also paint fire hydrants, close roads during events and keep the road plowed, salted and sanded during the long winter months. "The DPW is definitely a component of public safety. Especially at winter time. The fire and police departments will not go anywhere unless you have the DPW guys to plow and control the ice on the roads" Short says every year the department is asked to do more, with less.
While this winter might have been mild so far, he is looking ahead with a smaller staff. "My biggest worry is next winter. We've had a very mild winter. The council sees it as a very mild winter and thinks we've saved tons of money. We haven't saved that much money. We still went out and plowed we still went out and salted you know when you get two inches of snow even an inch of snow..depending on how heavy or wet you still have to go out and maintain the roads for the public or you have accidents," says Short.
Short says the department's budget has been scaled back over the years, and it has been asked to reduce it's workforce many times. Short says there is nothing else in the DPW budget to cut. He says they have to budget salt in for next winter, along with fuel-- and repair costs for the city's snow plows. Some of the plows are 20-25 years old and frequently need repairs. The repairs are a long and expensive process because the machines are so old, the parts have to be specially made. Short thinks this is not the end of the cuts for the city, or his department. "My personal opinion, there will probably be more cuts next year. It's just how the economy is, how the city finances are. We're trying to do the best we can. I foresee more trouble down the road."
Short says he has a couple of guys who are set to retire this year-- and hopes to can bring anyone back he is forced to lay off once a final budget is in place. "We are going to have issues trying to maintain some services. We'll try to maintain our level of service as we've done in the past. It may delay us a little bit. We'll have less people at parks..It's very trying times right now . This department will do everything it can do."