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Ahoskie RIF continues

AHOSKIE – As the Town of Ahoskie moves forward in alleviating a near $500,000 budget shortfall, more of its workforce have been handed a pink slip.

The latest two casualties of the payroll downsizing came recently at the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, to include Stewart White, the longtime director of that facility.

“We were overstaffed there,” said Ahoskie Town Manager Kerry McDuffie, referencing the Wastewater Treatment staff. “There were 10 employed there; that staff has been cut to six.”

When asked about the operational certification of the remaining staffers at that plant, McDuffie said three of the six are state certified.

“For a treatment plant the size of ours, we are required to employ two, Grade 4 (certified) operators,” McDuffie said. “We have three at a Grade 4 level.”

To date, the number of town-paid employees has dwindled from 60 to 52 since McDuffie’s arrival last summer.

“When we initially enacted this Reduction in Force (RIF), our first step was offering three months worth of severance pay to any employee that voluntarily resigned,” McDuffie explained. “No one took us up on that offer so we began the process of making cuts.”

The first two cuts came by closing the Ahoskie Recreation Department. Public Works Director Kirk Rogers was the next RIF casualty followed by two at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Also included in the cutbacks were longtime Ahoskie Fire Chief Ken Dilday, who accepted an early retirement late last year; one termination due to cause; and one full-time Ahoskie fireman leaving for another job.

“With the exception of the one employee fired due to cause, all the others received the three-month severance pay package,” McDuffie said.

The RIF does not impact the town’s police department.

The town has applied the use of a portion of the RIF savings to perform needed repairs to the public library, the town gym, and the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex.

“We had fallen behind on a number of maintenance projects that we were unable to address due to our budget deficit,” McDuffie said.

Additionally, the town purchased a 15-passenger van that will be used to transport low-level security prisoners that perform odd jobs around Ahoskie. McDuffie said prior to purchasing the van, the town was making numerous trips in an old police vehicle to transport those inmates to and from Ahoskie.

As far as the overall savings ($591,000 that includes salaries, benefits and insurance) generated by the RIF, McDuffie said their true impact would not be felt until the start of the 2018-19 budget year (effective July 1 of this year).

“Our town council held a recent workshop, and part of the discussion there was how to use those savings,” McDuffie said. “The council wants to use 23 percent of that money for early pay-off of the town’s debt; 24 percent to go to the fund balance; 29 percent to make improvements to town-owned facilities and for general maintenance work; 21 percent for performance raises and for training/recruiting town staff; and three percent for other purposes.”

Council members also listed their goals for the town during the 2018-19 budget year….patch First Street, rehab for the town gym, rehab for the Miracle on Main Street Park and Richard Street Park, Main Street beautification, a radar trailer for the police department, rehab on the Public Works building, and building a new library.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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