By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Accepting a challenge from a Yukon City Council member, Yukon’s city manager has proposed rehiring city employees who recently were laid off as part of budget cuts.
Many Yukon businesses were forced to closed under Gov. Stitt’s emergency disaster proclamation due to COVID-19, thus affecting the City of Yukon’s projected sales tax collections used to fund local government operations.
City Manager Jim Crosby on April 9 announced that 18 City employees were laid off because of a projected revenue shortfall. Many City buildings were closed to the public, including the library, recreation centers and Main Street office.
“It appears that members of the Council are interested in reopening facilities and having those individuals who were laid off given the opportunity to return to their jobs,” Crosby wrote in an April 23 memo. “I stated that because of the impact of the virus, I believe that there could be a shortfall in our present budget.”
The city council, at its Tuesday, May 5 meeting, will consider a motion to reinstate those employees needed to staff the reopening of City departments/facilities now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At-Large City Council Member Jeff Wootton last week asked Crosby and other department directors to reevaluate the layoffs and find “creative ways” to maintain a substantial budget while keeping City personnel in their jobs.
Wootton referred to people’s concerns about losing their jobs as the economy fails during “uncertain” times.
“We must take care of the employees who have taken care of us for so long,” Wootton said.
Crosby explained how the laid-off City employees would be reemployed in his memo. The city manager addressed all five city council members and Ward 4 Council Member-elect Aric Gilliland, who takes office next Tuesday to succeed Mike McEachern:
- The Main Street director and recreation staff would be paid out of funds from the City’s Hotel/Motel tax account. This would cost about $45,000 for the rest of fiscal year 2019-20.
- Part-time staff would be paid from the same account at a cost of about $30,000.
- The other City personnel would be rehired at a cost of about $138,000 with those funds being charged to the City’s General Employees PEST (Public Employees Sales Tax) account.
The proposal calls for these employees to be reinstated on Wednesday, May 6 with the Jackie Cooper Gym and Yukon Community Center reopening on May 15. The Mabel C. Fry Public Library has been closed but materials are available for curbside pickup.
MILLERS MAKE THE PILLARS
At the April 21 city council meeting, Councilman Wootton asked Yukon’s city manager to consider options to rehire the laid-off city workers.
Wootton referred to employees at the Yukon Mill & Grain Co., which he called the “original cornerstone of our wonderful community”.
“It was such an important industry and responsible for the modernization of Yukon itself,” he said. “However, it wasn’t the product that made it such a pillar in our community, it was the millers. The hard-working men and women who worked there every day to support their families.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and Wootton said it is “essential” for Yukon City employees to have jobs to support their families.
“Mr. Crosby, I challenge you to find a way to hire back all our laid-off employees and that no more jobs need to be sacrificed during this time,” Wootton said.
“City administration and department heads, we need to go back to our origin. Remember the great people who came before us and all they did to create our great community.”
The city manager said he’d accept the challenge at the April 21 meeting then developed the plan to reinstate the furloughed personnel.
Crosby said it’s his responsibility to ensure the City of Yukon is fiscally sound as municipalities across the country are negatively impacted by the virus and record-low oil prices.
“It bothered me, probably more than anybody here, to let anybody go or (have) layoffs,” the city manager said.
“I do hope that we can all work together and get these people back working.”