MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council on Tuesday discussed sending out layoff notices to all village employees, called for a public hearing on possibly turning off streetlights and changed some water policies that will affect residents with a swimming pool.
Village Clerk John Angelica suggested sending out layoff notices to all village employees effective Dec. 29. He said such a move is pre-emptive to save the village about $30,000 in vacation time that will have to be paid to the employees if they work after Jan. 1.
The village is facing a budget shortfall come 2013 because of declining income tax associated with the shutdown of the RG Steel plant.
Council will hold a meeting with the Mingo Junction Safety Forces and the Communication Workers of America at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by a finance committee meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Council earlier this month determined there may only be about $208,000 in the general fund next year for employee wages.
Councilman John Bracone said council hasn't even looked at the garbage fund or other departments outside the general fund.
"We don't know how many we can keep," he said.
The village has to give the employees a 14-day layoff notice.
Councilman John Fabian said he wants the meeting with both unions to see if the workers have any suggestions on how to make cutbacks.
"We should at least give them the opportunity," Fabian said.
Council later could inform a village worker he or she won't be laid off.
Council announced the regularly scheduled meeting for Dec. 25 has been canceled, but the finance committee will keep meeting.
Angelica said the village has to pay unemployment benefits and six months of hospitalization for laid-off police and fire department members and three months for the other village workers.
Council prior to the regular meeting on Tuesday held a session with a representative of the state auditor's office, who explained the process of municipalities in Ohio being placed under fiscal watch, caution or emergency by the state auditor's office.
The village is expected to finish the year with a positive balance. Municipalities ending the year with a deficit going into the following year can be placed under the fiscal watch or caution. The mayor or clerk can request the state auditor's office come in an review the village's books to see if any of the determinations of fiscal watch, caution or emergency should be implemented.
Councilman Michael Herrick, who heads the council streetlight committee, said a public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Building to get input on what residents want to do about shutting off 579 streetlights to save money.
The village spends about $50,000 a year on streetlights.
Herrick said there are three proposals for residents to consider. One is turning off all the lights; second, keep about 100 streetlights on at intersections; or third, impose a $4 a month fee to residents to keep all the streetlights on.
Council also approved changes in policies and charges concerning water.
Councilman Jack Brettell, who heads the water and sewer committee, said the village will do away with only charging residents for water for filling up swimming pools in the spring. Residents now will be charged for both water and sewerage costs.
Brettell said council it trying to raise funds in other areas so as to not increase water and sewer rates.
The village also will be inspecting water meters inside and outside homes at random throughout the next year. Residents have the obligation to make arrangements to let a village worker inside the home to inspect the water meter. Brettell said residents will be criminally charged if the meter has been tampered with or altered in any way.
Council also approved increasing the fee for turning water back on after it has been disconnected. The fee will increase to $100 during normal business hours and $150 for after hours.
Councilman Chuck Dickey said the Retired Senior Volunteer Program has expressed an interest in taking over the operations of the senior center. He said RSVP will be responsible for all operations, including the lunch and transportation programs, but council may be asked to make improvements to the senior center building.
"They are more than interested in running the center," said Mayor Ron DiCarlo.
Also, council agreed to place an issue on the May 7 primary election ballot for electric aggregation for residents and business, similar to a program approved by Toronto residents in November 2011.
John Ney, an energy consultant with World Energy, told council that municipalities can form aggregated buying groups to purchase electric generation on behalf of residents. If approved, Ney will negotiate the rates for residents and business.
Ney said residents and businesses can opt out of the program if approved by voters and enter into their own agreement with an electric service provider.
He said AEP will continue to be responsible for the delivery of power to homes and businesses and will continue to read meters and maintain poles and wires and restore power after an outage.
Council also approved the following resolutions:
Commending Louis Kakasick and the Mingo Junction Knights of Columbus for organizing a food and clothing drive for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Commending Mingo Social Services and Sophie Schoolcraft, director, for work in proving holiday food basket for residents.
Commending Frank Vostatek, Mingo Pharmacy owner, for his donation to the senior center.
Congratulating Sharon Kirtdoll, founder and director of the Urban Mission Ministries Neighborhood Community Development Center, on her retirement.
Commending the high school football teams at Indian Creek and Catholic Central for making the state playoffs.