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Monday, December 05, 2011

Four For The Chopping Block



Left to right: PPL Director Stan Ransom, Library Board member John Prim - Ward 1, and Library Board president Roland Lockwood listen during the comment portion of the meeting where it was decided to cut four positions at the city library.


PLATTSBURGH CITY, 12/5/11

Two librarians, one clerk, one page. To be axed.

The Board of Trustees for the Plattsburgh Public Library voted in favor of eliminating four positions (one trustee abstaining) at this evening's meeting.

The meeting was originally scheduled for the Clinton County Personnel Department conference room but due to so many citizens who wanted to attend it was relocated to the larger first floor conference room. Library supporters sat and stood outside the large conference table, using most of the available wall space.

At the beginning of the meeting the motion was made to move into executive session, meaning the public would have to wait outside. A blogger (ahem) in attendance asked why the first part of the meeting was being made private. The answer was given that "personnel issues" were going to be discussed and such discussion couldn't be shared with the public.

Democracy in the dark?

After the executive session was over the public was allowed back in the conference room to offer comments. Everyone who spoke at the podium urged the Library Board not to make any cuts. One person who whose position was going to be eliminated was distraught, almost in tears, telling the board how her husband's pay at his job had been cut and without the income from her own job it would be difficult for her family to make ends meet.

Board member Harold Brohinsky spoke, saying he understood how people were upset with the needs for cuts. But with tough economic times across the country -- less money coming in from federal and state sources -- there were no other options. He added if he wasn't a board member he would be on the other side, being one of the library supporters.

Brohinsky mentioned the movie, "Sophie's Choice," in which a mother had to decide which one of her two children would live, when describing the hard choices the board had to make. He stressed the board hated to take such drastic measures but there were no other options.

Other board members made similar comments about the difficulties they faced.

After the meeting I spoke with Roland Lockwood, President of the Library Board.

I asked him why did the bad news of the cuts came out without too much warning.

He replied that the Library Board was working hard to deal with the budget shortfall and didn't want to create undue concern if it could find an answer in saving the positions. But at the last minute the only option was to cut.

I asked why did the PPL employees and the public had to learn about the possible cuts through the local newspaper.

He replied: "I don't know." He added that when he was employed in private industry that someone would be let go without any warning, just enough time to clear out their desk.

So city government should treat its employees the same way as private industry?

Lockwood paused. "Well, not really..."

4 Comments:

Anonymous Rolene O'Brien said...

Ah, The Executive Session. Have any GOOD decisions ever come out of that type of meeting? Yes, times are tough, but the public has a right to know how and why certain decisions are being made.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Caleb said...

People knew about this issue years ago.

If I would have been told about this just a month earlier then there were a number of job openings in VT that I could have applied for. Now at this time right before 2012 starts all those positions are closed.

The thing about jobs being cut in the private industry without warning is that NOBODY generally knows in advance that they will have to cut jobs. Not even the people in charge of the company.

People knew about this issue for years. They were taking money out of a finite emergency account that would run out!

This fiscal disaster was going on practically for my entire time at PPL.

I specifically asked Stan Ransom on multiple occasions the first year I started working there whether or not my position was secure. He always told me it was.

Back in 2010 I thought I should call up a number of people in local government to figure out what the heck was happening with the library budget.

I didn't because it wasn't my job and I was always told in the past not to over reach my position in life.

Well I did recently make some phone calls and I if I had done so back in 2010 I would have known that I wouldn't have a job in 2012.

I would have done so many things differently this past year.

So this is a life lesson for me I suppose.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Luke T. Bush said...

Caleb:

Thanks for your comment. It adds a personal perspective to the situation. Good luck with your job search.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Luke T. Bush said...

Rolene:

I didn't mention this in the article but after the executive session and the public are allowed back in, I asked the board members a couple of questions. They just sat there, didn't say a word.

Responding to the non-response, one library supporter said that they had questions and the board wasn't giving them any answers. Once again the board just sat there, not a word. Maybe that could be called a silent executive session.

2:51 PM  

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