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More layoffs in store for City

by Larry Patrick

WALSENBURG- The City of Walsenburg will implement more layoffs to try and offset the additional losses in revenue brought about by the closing of the CCA prison.

    At Monday nights City Finance Meeting, the members of the City Council began addressing the utility revenue shortfalls from the prison closing that the Huerfano Journal reported on several weeks ago. City Administrator, Alan Hein told the Finance Committee that this year’s loss from the CCA prison closure would be around $250,000 for April through December. With that amount added to the City’s $300,000 shortfall in this year’s budget, that brings them to a $550,000 deficit overall.

    In November, Hein laid off seven employees and offered early retirement to three others.  All three declined the early retirement offer.  So now, Hein plans to lay off two employees in the water/sewer department and one from the street department to bring the total of 10 layoffs approved by City Council at that time.  In addition to that, Hein is proposing laying off an additional two employees in the water/sewer department and move forward with letting two police officers go while having the police chief become an active officer on the streets to go along with his administrative duties. Plans call for not replacing Lenny Mondragon, the building inspector, who was let go two weeks ago, while having his code enforcement duties filled in-house. That makes a total of eight additional employees to be let go to help alleviate budget woes.  

    Hein says the City is in serious financial distress and needs to take this action to get the City moving in the right direction.  Currently, the City of Walsenburg has about $500,000 in unrestricted funds as a cushion against emergency situations. He did not rule out the need for additional layoffs but hoped the current round would stem the tide. If the CCA prison were to reopen, the City of Walsenburg could always rehire if more employees were needed.  In a full calendar year, the City receives around $325,000 in utility and other revenues from the CCA prison.

    Just weeks ago, the city fathers felt that letting several police officers go would take a big bite out of the City’s $300,000 budget shortfall and get them moving in the right direction.  But then they got hit with the news of the prison closing.

    The moves do not solve all of the City’s financial problems. Administrator Hein says he has been able to shave $800,000 off of the bid for the new wastewater treatment plant that is mandated by the State of Colorado. That still leaves a half-million dollar shortfall for that project to be completed.

    Hein plans to begin making the new round of layoffs within the next week.