The elimination of six middle management positions on Oct. 24 was the subject of a labor rally and an hour of discussion during the public portion of Tuesday night's Common Council meeting.
The positions are in United Steelworkers of America Local 2693-COD and involve employees in the water treatment and wastewater treatment plants and the director of recreation.
The rally was held in front of City Hall for 30 minutes before the meeting. About 50 people from various unions in the area marched and chanted that the "mayor must go."
"Someone has to do the jobs," said Anthony Marzullo, union president. "We want our people to work. We have lost jobs with all the companies that have left."
He said the union is willing to meet with the mayor to discuss keeping the jobs. Mayor Margaret Wuerstle said that the meeting will be held on Thursday.
The mayor has said elimination of the six positions is necessary to cut $500,000 in spending as a condition for a bank loan last July.
Most of the comment during the Council meeting was in support of Robert Patterson, the director of recreation and the youth bureau, who is scheduled to be terminated on Oct. 31.
Richard Laskowski, upstate area manager of the state Division for Youth, said the city would lose money with the elimination.
"The state reimburses half his salary, and that can trigger other funds," he warned.
Other speakers praised Patterson for his dedication to the programs and to youth.
The positions to be eliminated in the water and wastewater treatment plants will require a restructuring, according to Mayor Wuerstle.
Steven Johnson, of the Chautauqua County Department of Health, wrote the city that he is concerned about elimination of the chief operator's position at the water plant because of the need for the plant to comply with the state sanitary code.
If a chemist is eliminated, he said, there is a question of certification of the laboratory.
The water plant has three operators with the necessary 1-A licenses, including Chief Operator James Sell, whose position is being eliminated, according to Randy Woodbury, director of public works.
"Any one of the three can be designated as senior operator. We need the licenses, not the title," he said.
At the wastewater treatment plant, where the chief operator's position is to be eliminated, three people have the necessary 4-A licenses, he said.
"We can designate one person as responsible and in charge," Woodbury said.
Mayor Wuerstle has approved having all five people in the "ditch gang" that works in the water distribution system take a course to be eligible for a D license. Any one will then be able to do connections and "touch the pipes," he said. Currently only the supervisor has the license and his is a position to be eliminated.
The Common Council responded to the audience by saying that the mayor's 1998 budget will be reviewed "line by line," but no promises were made about the positions.
"For five years, the Council has been able to reduce the mayor's budget. This year we have a budget of doom," commmented Councilman-at-Large Frank Gawronski.