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May 23, 2010
Akron Ohio area

Akron might be laying off police officers at the same time it's hiring firefighters.

The city plans to hire eight firefighters to replace some retirees — and to protect federal funds that just returned 37 laid-off rookies to the job.

The city also announced Monday that as many as 139 officers and 60 other employees could be laid off, depending on the size of the budget shortfall as determined later this month.

''This is how scattered the numbers are. They are laying off but hiring,'' said Paul Hlynsky, president of Akron's 447-member Fraternal Order of Police union. ''They are rewarding people who conceded and punishing people who felt they couldn't concede.''

When asked for a response, Mayor Don Plusquellic, who was in Washington, D.C., to discuss funding issues with federal officials, said, ''I do not intend to respond to the FOP president.''

Plusquellic plans to issue a news release today detailing what was accomplished in Washington, Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth said.

The city released a grid Monday that showed the potential number of layoffs for every $1 million of budget deficit as of Aug. 20. Notices would be delivered by the end of the month, with layoffs beginning Sept. 12.

Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson is projecting a $4 million deficit by the end of the year. That would equate to layoffs for 93 officers and 34 other employees, for a total of 127, according to the layoff grid.

The layoffs would affect only the unions representing police and health department nurses, which are at impasse with the city,

and the Civil Service Personnel Association, which agreed to concessions that extend until early September.

The city and nurses union soon are expected to begin the state fact-finding process and a fact-finder's report on the police contract is expected by the end of this month.

Union concessions

The fire union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees recently approved three-year contracts with concessions, including no raises for two years. Akron agreed to no layoffs in the fire union this year.

The city is restricted in its ability to lay off firefighters by about $6 million in federal funds it received to bring back 37 laid-off firefighters.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Response (SAFER) grant, which will cover the salaries and benefits of those 37 firefighters for two years, requires the city to maintain the level of staffing it had when it received the funds.

For Akron, that number is 311.

Deputy Chief Rob Ross said the department will begin interviewing candidates this morning for a class of eight it plans to begin training in September or October. The rookies would replace one laid-off firefighter who chose not to return and other firefighters who have retired or soon will.

The firefighters will come from an eligibility list that expires Aug. 27.

Ross said Akron also might make conditional job offers to up to 30 more people on the eligibility list. The city would offer to pay for these candidates' training but not hire them until positions become open.

This would give the city a pool of firefighters ready to start the job quickly.

''It would take three to four weeks to get them ready to go out to a company, versus three months or more,'' Ross said.

Plusquellic proposed this to federal officials as a way to maintain compliance with the SAFER staffing level requirement. Federal officials gave a verbal nod to the plan, though Akron hasn't gotten formal approval, Ross said.

''The fire department made concessions,'' Ross said. ''We are not trying to increase our numbers. This is money that will be reimbursed by the feds. If we don't maintain this, we will lose the federal money.''

Grant spares jobs

Akron also received a $5.8 million federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program grant last year that spared 23 officers' jobs. The police union agreed last year to an initial round of concessions that kept officers from being laid off.

The COPS grant provided Akron with funding for the 23 officers' salaries for three years and required the city to assume the expense in the fourth year. The grant doesn't have minimum staffing requirements like SAFER.

Plusquellic met with officials from the U.S. Justice Department this week to discuss the city's options regarding the grant if officers are laid off.

''My guess is, we are not the only city going through this,'' police Chief Gus Hall said. ''We are seeing this across the country.''

Numerous cities have laid off firefighters, police and other employees to address budget problems. Many cities have received federal funding to avoid layoffs or to return employees to work.

''We're going to pull out all the stops to do everything we can to save as many officers as we possibly can,'' Hall said.

Hall is hopeful the city and police union will again be able to reach an agreement that avoids layoffs. He also is hoping Akron eventually will be able to hire officers. The police department has an eligibility list that expires next June.

In the meantime, Hall said, the department is dusting off a plan created last year regarding how to respond in the event of layoffs. The plan involves changing officers to different shifts and requiring many of those in specialty units to return to the streets.

''Anything we do would result in robbing Peter to pay Paul,'' Hall said. ''We would have to give up something to respond to calls for service.''


May 20, 2010
My city wanted to furlough street cops and firefighters to saving money, saying the chief and other higher ups (who obviously make way more) were 'too important to daily operation's of the department(s)', despite the fact that we run perfectly fine on nights and weekends when the highest person is a Sgt. Our chief said he and the capt would take the hit so we could meet minimum staffing levels (recently reduced from 5 on a shift to 3 and a split), which helped our moral a little. They thing that got to us was the way they wanted to cut cops, firefighters, paramedics, and teachers, but the city shop, water department, public works, and city hall stayed the same and the garbage collectors got one new to them truck and another brand new truck (and we who live out of county were forced to park our GOV's at the station instead of at the fire station on the county line.

I understand the way grants work and have no problem with a fire dept hiring people if someone else is paying for it, I just hate to see people in other city depts literally sitting on their butts, bitching when we bring an 03 CVPI with 130k miles on it in for major repairs after it breaks again. These are the guys who work 9-330 (paid 8-4) and have inmates do the work for them. Then they tell me 'you shouldn't drive so hard in a old car, it's not like you guys really do anything anyway'. Yeah, that's the day I almost got fired.


May 25, 2010
Winston Salem, NC
The article left out several important numbers, such as how many officers the city currently employs or what concessions they made vs. the FD. On the fire dept. end of things, it didn't sound like they were hiring 37 extra employees, just keeping a pool of candidates in case of retirement. While I'm sure the PD wouldn't mind hiring on more personnel, you can't use the SAFER grant for that.


May 20, 2010
Maryland, USA
Our county executive recommended 2 days of furloughs for all non public safety personnel. The county council, many of whom were elected because of broad support from the very large teachers union, decided to furlough ALL county employees.... except for school personnel. So all the cops and firefighters and other county employees are getting furloughed 1 work week, but the teachers, janitors, bus drivers, lunch ladies, etc are not getting furloughed at all. This is on top of the fact that the police and fire unions agreed to give up raises for the past 2 years and foreseeable future and gave up other benefits.

Obviously its more important that Johnny go to school than it is that Johnny be kept safe from fire or assault.


May 21, 2010
Northeast Ohio
How could you furlough a teacher, and save money? If school is in session, they are working...janitors, teachers, etc. If they furlough a teacher for a week, they need to backfill with a substitute-thats not saving money. Don't think its much any issue of politics(your assumption that teachers unions supported candidates), as it is of saving money the best way possible.

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