Shamokin street department workers may get comp time instead of overtime
SHAMOKIN - The city and its employees in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union may be entering into an agreement to forgo overtime pay if both entities approve it.
At the workshop meeting Wednesday night, Councilman Charlie Varano presented a letter from the employees to council suggesting the overtime pay be nixed in exchange for compensatory time - up to 10 days off - for 2014.
The members of the union consist of the six street department employees, the department's foreman Kevin Richardson and the public safety technician.
The item was placed on the agenda for Monday night's regular meeting. If council approves it then, the union members will meet to discuss the agreement, said Richardson, who was not at the workshop meeting.
Neither council nor Richardson knew what the city would save if the agreement is approved.
In order to save two police officers from furloughs, city council members have made moves to reduce the police department's overtime budget from $92,323 to $27,313.
Mayor William D. Milbrand said the police department can't follow the street department's move because there are not enough officers to cover comp time shifts.
Street department overtime would be considered anything more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week for all employees, Richardson said.
Susquehanna Bank has not yet approved a loan requested by the city to settle an estimated $800,000 in unpaid bills that accumulated by the end of 2013, and city officials are considering working with another lender.
Milbrand said he has been in discussion with Miners Bank, in Minersville, and officials there seem interested in securing the loan for the city.
"Susquehanna Bank always wants one more thing," Milbrand said.
Brenda Scandle, treasurer, said the Susquehanna Bank officials are requesting information daily from the city in reference to the loan.
Varano thanked Coal Township and his fellow council members for negotiating the purchase of road salt for the city Tuesday. The city was low on material and couldn't get any credit with road salt distributors andtownship officials stepped up to help.
While it was "embarrassing," he said, "It was no fault of anyone here, just what I call the 'mess.'"
The township agreed to pay the bill until the city can come up with the money.
Additionally, Varano wants the residents of Shamokin to stop throwing snow into the street after it's plowed, which happened in several sections of the city.
"We can't afford to keep sending our guys out there," he said.
Milbrand said the public needs to cooperate with the city.
"We're asking for patience" while the city deals with the snow piles, Varano said.
Catino vs. Rhoades
Emergency Squad Administrator Jim Catino also attended the meeting and accused Councilman R. Craig Rhoades of being a bully toward the agency.
Rhoades said during a December meeting that changes made to the heating setup at Shamokin Emergency and Rescue Squad at Mill Road Square - ending the practice of heating the space by venting hot air from a police garage and requiring that it pay for its own heat - could save the city money.
Catino said Rhoades had no problem with the heating system until Catino no longer allowed the councilman to use a training room for personal reasons.
After that, Rhoades wanted the squad to pay the heating bill and tried to push the blame off on new Councilwoman Barb Moyer, who is now in charge of buildings, Catino said.
Rhoades said he had no problem with the set up until the financial crisis in the city and he was looking for ways to cut the budget.
He provided Moyer with a tour of the building - and others in the city - and she said she would look into the issue further, Rhoades said, a statement Moyer confirmed.
City solicitor Frank Konopka and Milbrand told the two to stop arguing and advised them to hold a meeting between members of council and the squad to resolve the issue.
After the meeting, Rhoades said he isn't sure what was the "personal reason" to which Catino was referring. Rhoades said Catino could have meant a request to use the room so a state instructor can provide emergency and rescue training for fire personnel, a common practice.