Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Guestblog: Reorganization Joke by John Milardo

The guest blog by retired city employee &  former union president Middletown resident John Milardo reflects his opinions, which may not necessarily be that of the Insider staff; guest blogs and letters to the editor are published as a courtesy to readers. 
The original piece by Milardo can be read and downloaded in its original format here:  
And Justice For All” is a newsletter involving my opinions, views, and commentary as a life long Middletown  resident. In my capacity as a former employee of Middletown (retired) for over 41 years, I have a different perspective regarding how and why public figures do what they do."
 The consolidation of the Parks Division into the Public Works Department is coming!   
There is no stopping it!  The general public does not care one way or the other what happens with this merger.  There are those private entities that will benefit from the merger, and I’ll bet you they have 
already spoken with the administration to support it. 

      On July 31st, the Finance and Government Operations Commission held their monthly meeting.  
Mayor Daniel Drew presented the Commissioners his “Proposal for Merger: Public Works and Parks”.  
The report states there will be a savings of $150,000 due to the elimination of the Parks Maintainer IV/Working Supervisor position (retirement) an AFSCME bargaining unit job.  He also states the 
Parks Division Park Maintainer 3 employees will receive a one (1) pay grade salary increase due to 
added responsibilities.  Additionally, the Recreation Division, which will no longer be part of the 
department, is going to move into the Parks Division facility at Butternut Street, to save the cost of 
rent at their River View Center location.  (Recreation was moved due to lack of space 
at Butternut Street)  The Mayor states that combining Parks and Public Works will eliminate 
duplication of purchased items, and uses the example of a plasma cutter, used to cut steel, 
a $2,000 piece of equipment. 

     Christine Bourne, President of AFSCME, Local #466 spoke at the meeting and stated the Union
was not on board with the merger as presented.  The Parks Division has always been short staffed,
but is currently at an all time low.  At one time, there were eighteen (18) employees.  Currently, there
are eight (8) Park maintenance employees.  A far cry from the thirty (30) recommended in a job study
performed years ago.   According to the minutes of the meeting, Commissioner Thomas Serra asked
if Public Works Director William Russo could be brought forward to speak on what President Bourne
had mentioned. The minutes reflect Director Russo’s exact statement:  “the Mayor doesn’t want five
guys atthis level telling one guy at this level what to do, this is where the consolidation is coming in.”
WTF gibberish is that!? This isthe person who is going to be in charge of the new department
and get a big fat raise!  Director Russo also stated he spoke to Parks Division employees to find
out their concerns.  Has anyone ever heardof “direct dealing”? It is a violation of labor law to deal
directly with employees when they have a Union.The employer must only contact the Union’s
executive officers.  


    As a long time Union officer, I understand the employer has the right to reorganize.  If the employer
creates changes in job duties, hours of work, wages, benefits, and responsibilities, the employer must sit
down with the Union and formally negotiate such changes.  When the Water & Sewer Department
reorganized a few years ago, both AFSCME and the Teamsters were involved in formal negotiations with
 the City.  After reading the minutes of this meeting, it doesn’t sound like any formal negotiations have
occurred.


     As for the $150,000 in savings by not filling one (1) position, no cost breakdown was included
with the report.  The $150,000 figure seems unreasonably high.  If you do not fill a position there
will be a savings on paper but what is the effect of the loss?  How does the work of that position
now get performed?  If there are more positions unfilled, it compounds the problem.  How do you
compensate for the loss of manpower?  Do you contract more bargaining unit work out?  Do you
hire more part-time or temporary employees throughout the entire year instead of just during the
summer?  What is that cost going to be?A complete explanation is needed. 

     Unlike the reorganization of the Water & Sewer Department, the Parks and Public Works
 employees will not be cross trained.  No employees will work inter-departmentally.  The employees
will stay within their existing divisions.  The only thing that is changing is the person in charge of the
combined departments and some other supervision within the department administration.  They are
using the guise of shared equipment --- which has always occurred anyway --- to push through this
“reorganization”.Oh crap!  They should stop cooperating now!  Someone, please mind erase
all the employees so they can truthfully say the departments never share or shared equipment before!


     With a new Director overseeing the Parks Division, you can bet the cost of business is going to
 go way up.  More contractors, consultants and engineering firms will be hired for every little thing.
There will be a saving of one unfilled position with this consolidation, but there will be a high cost
for private consultants, engineers,and contractors.  That’s how the Public Works Department
operates, that is how the Director will want the Parks Division to operate. 


     The more consultants, engineers, and contractors hired the more perks and contributions to
election campaigns.  Once you get through all the BS, it always boils down to one thing---money!
Check the campaign donation lists this election year.  There are unmentioned costs other than
 the one (1) pay grade increase for Park Maintainer 3 workers.  The Director of Public Works job
 description has a two (2) word change in it.  The Deputy Director of Public Works has many
 changes which increased his duties and responsibility, and the Parks Superintendent position
has several changes.  There are office employees whose work will be changed, as well as
the responsibility and duties of the Manager and Budget Analyst of the Mayor.
Past City history shows these positions will receive pay grade increases and/or maybe even
 additional assistance; if not now, then very shortly down the road.


     So, what has the taxpayer gained with this recommendation to combine the Parks Division into
 the Public Works Department?
• You still have a Parks & Recreation Director on board, who will probably be in charge of
Recreation and Senior Services at some point in time, so there is no cost reduction there.
• No co-mingling of manpower for assistance to the Parks Division or the City Yard (Public Works)
employees, so manpower needs have not been met or addressed, work load and completion will
not change.
 • There will be big increases in pay for the Public Works administrator(s); sooner or later.
• There will be budgetary cost increases in the Parks Division, (work previously performed in-house),
for engineering services, private contractors, and consultants.


     Bottom line is the reorganization of the Parks Division into the Public Works Department is going to
happen no matter what!  Even if there is a large public turnout objecting to it, it will be approved by the
Common Council.  I believe the Mayor has the votes on the Council to push his agenda through.
The Mayor and those voting in favor of this reorganization can put a pin in their lapels exclaiming
 how they “improved services to the taxpayers, and reduced the cost to do so!”  It won’t happen
 without them throwing millions of dollars to ensure success.  In my opinion, it’s all a giant smoke
screen for the real reason(s). They are willing to approve this reorganization to monetarily take care of
one or two people who are loyal political friends.  All the other mentioned costs are just peripheral
 damage the taxpayer will have to pay for.
      There will be a cost increase to combine the departments, just as there was combining the 
Personnel Department into the Legal Department.  The premise of this new consolidation, according to 
Mayor Drew is to not duplicate items.  He cannot say there is a duplication of services because 
each division performs work completely different of the other.  There may be similarity with some 
of the equipment used, but the work is far different, as are the job duties of employees.  
The savings may be a $2,000 plasma cutter.

Stay strong. Stay involved. Stay together. Seek the truth. 
John Milardo, Middletown CT





 

Popular Posts