To hear the highway superintendent talk, layoffs in the Town of Hamburg could affect everything from snow removal at Town Hall this winter to the opening of Woodlawn Beach State Park and Eighteen Mile Creek Golf Course this spring.
“We use these part-timers to fill in for vacations, days off,” said Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr. “And come early spring, there’s not going to be anybody to open up the golf course.”
“Everything is going to be open,” Supervisor Steven Walters promised after defending the layoffs during a Town Board meeting.
Layoff notices went out to 29 highway and buildings and grounds workers Monday. The town budget, adopted unanimously by the Town Board last month, eliminated five positions, but only the highway position and the buildings and grounds job were filled and required layoffs.
Under the union contract, full-time workers cannot be laid off until all part-time staff get pink slips, so 27 part-timers got layoff notices along with two full-timers. They are to be off the payroll Feb. 1.
Some feel the layoffs are part of a political tiff between the supervisor and Best, who oversees the two departments where the layoffs would take place. Best’s son, Tom Jr., won a seat on the Town Board and will take his seat Jan. 1. Best said he could not remember layoffs ever taking place in the town.
But Walters said the only goal was to save money.
“The intention of the Town Board was to recognize the fact we could not raise taxes over 10 percent in this town,” Walters said. “Difficult decisions have to be made.”
Members of the blue-collar union helped fill the board chambers to standing room only for the regular Town Board meeting Monday night. Robert W. Mueller, the CSEA labor relations specialist who negotiates for the union, charged that Walters did not tell Town Board members the consequence of eliminating the two jobs. He also said summer help cannot be hired until the two workers are restored.
“What I’m implying is that the board did not have the proper information,” he said. “How do you anticipate these services will continue to be fulfilled on behalf of the residents?”
Walters said the board members have been given the contracts and he assumes they do their due diligence before attending board meetings.
The board voted for the layoffs after the town and its five unions could not reach an agreement to lower the cost of health care. Mueller and Walters disagree on whose fault that is, and got into verbal sparring Monday night.
And maybe in a glimpse of what is to come when Tom Best Jr. joins the board, he criticized the action.
“I think the board should reconsider the effect this is going to have on the Town of Hamburg,” Best Jr. said. “I think the board made a mistake.”
Councilman Michael Quinn said he did not go into the budget meeting intending to lay off workers, and he said he did not have the contract with him and was not aware of the domino effect they would have.
“I’m hoping as we go forward we can cut other places and bring people back,” Quinn said.