OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - Ogdensburg city manager Stephen Jellie has begun issuing layoff notices to city firefighters - but is also offering a way to avoid those layoffs.
Although the city has planned on laying off seven firefighters, Jellie told 7 News that as of Wednesday afternoon only five layoff notices will be issued because one firefighter has taken a voluntary retirement deal, and another is out with a long term injury, so the city is “temporarily holding” the final layoff.
And Jellie disclosed the city has made a new contract offer to the firefighters union “to settle the entire matter.” He called it a “generous proposal” which would “resolve the matter of reducing organizational staffing, prevent the layoff of all firefighter personnel and avoid a lengthy court battle,” but he declined to release additional details.
The city’s goal has been to reduce the staff of the fire department from 27 to 20 with the start of the new year. It wasn’t clear Wednesday how this latest proposal fits with the city’s budget for 2021, which funds only 20 positions.
Jason Bouchard, president of the firefighters union, confirmed five layoff notices are being issued and that the union has received a new contract proposal.
Bouchard said the union is considering the offer, but expects no decision before Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just unfortunate that the city decided to violate our contract” with the layoffs, Bouchard said.
City officials say the layoffs are necessary because Ogdensburg faces a tax and budget crisis. The firefighters say the cuts endanger public safety and violate the contract between them and the city.
Last week, Jellie upped a previous incentive from $20,000 to $25,000 for any eligible firefighter who retires by the end of the year - and that is the deal one firefighter has decided to take.
Meanwhile, a state Supreme Court judge earlier this week granted the union a hearing on January 8, at which the city could be ordered to not make cuts to the fire department.