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DPW LEFT IN LIMBO, STRETCHING RESOURCES

In the City of Tonawanda, if residents notice their brush and debris are by the curb a little longer than usual, there is a reason.

The Tonawanda Department of Public Works is currently several staffers down and is stretching out its resources, according to officials. The reasoning is that the vacancies within the department are being saved as possible replacement jobs for Water Department employees if and when the city decides to close down that fiscally draining operation.

Officials place full staffing numbers at approximately 41 or 42 employees within the Public Works Department, which currently has 36 employees, according to Superintendent Neal Myers. The loss of seasonal help due to colleges and universities being back in session as well as injuries to two employees are cited as the reasons for the current drop in manpower. As a result, Myers said the crews must set priorities for jobs in order to service the needs of residents and the city.

"We've been juggling some jobs," Myers said. "It's just that people expect services to be given to them, and there's a bit of a waiting period (now). It doesn't seem like the (residents) are happy."

Mayor Alice Roth believes that while the current situation might be an inconvenience, it is manageable. She hopes the current situation with the water plant will be resolved by the end of the year.

"We're doing a dance here, trying to maintain the workload and still have a skeleton crew," she said. "It's very hard for (Water Department) workers because they don't know what the future holds, and we're trying to (create) opportunities."

While no employees are working overtime at the Public Works Department, the Water Department is facing some overtime costs and is two employees short itself. Because of the situation, Roth said the city wouldn't hire anyone else for the Water Department since in the future it's likely to be in the hands of an outside agency.

"Obviously, it's better to hire somebody than keep paying overtime," Roth said. "I don't think anything critical is being missed (by Public Works). If we feel like we reach a critical point, we can hire more temporary (employees). The next 60 days will be rough, but we should make it."

Myers hopes the relief is coming soon.

"The problem I have is tasks have to be done every day, and I'm sitting in limbo," he said. "It's not a situation I'm comfortable with. It all leads back to what they're doing with the Water Department. If it takes six years to close down, I guess I have to wait."

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