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Road crew, cops laid off

FALLOWFIELD TOWNSHIP – Citing unforseen costs associated, in part, to a year of bad weather, the Fallowfield Board of Supervisors Wednesday voted to lay off two of its three full-time police officers and its four-man road crew.

The layoffs will begin Friday.

“The township ran out of money and we had to make an adjustment to offset the budget,” Supervisor Al Cialone said. “It’s hard, but when there’s no money, there’s no money.”

Cialone and Supervisor Herman Pennline said fiscal problems began as early as June 13, 2002, when the township was besieged with $300,000 in flood-related expenses. The Fox Stop Bridge closure, snow removal and summer paving all contributed to the budget crunch.

“None of that was in our budget,” Cialone said.

Pennline agreed.

“We overextended ourselves and we have no choice at this point but to layoff until we get our heads above water,” he said. “We didn’t want to do it but we had to.”

The decision to furlough workers was finalized just moments before the supervisors’ Wednesday business meeting, the supervisors said.

Solicitor Mike Savona said Fallowfield Township spent more than double the budget allotment for salt and anti-skid supplies last winter, and that equipment breakdowns necessitated the unforeseen purchase of a $60,000 snow removal vehicle.

Savona said that to ensure the township will be able to provide snow removal services this winter, the supervisors were “prudent” in their decision to furlough employees now.

“We have to plan for a bad winter,” he said. “You almost have to cut back now.”

Savona said the township has already spent $118,000 of the $126,000 road crew budget. He said that with overtime compensation, the township already spent $114,000 in police salaries. Only $113,00 was allotted, he added.

The township still has approximately $60,000 in its general fund and anticipates an additional $150,000 to $160,000 in revenue — which likely will cover the township’s expenses.

“You can’t do that with $90,000 in payroll costs,” Savona said.

A letter explaining the layoffs will be distributed to affected employees today, Cialone said, adding that he is unsure when they will be called back to work.

“We’re trying to re-evaluate the whole situation,” he said. “Hopefully it will be short-lived.”

Pennline agreed.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to last. It might last a month, maybe less.”

Allen Pettit, who was promoted to police captain at a special meeting Sept. 15, said he was angry and frustrated that no warning was given, and that supervisors did not offer personal explanations.

“I think it’s cheesy. I think it’s sneaky and I think it’s wrong,” he said.

He said with Chief Bill Ritenour being the only available officer, township residents will have to rely on state police for emergency calls after sundown.

Aaron Wagle, the second furloughed police officer, said he was shocked at the news.

“This just totally blindsided us,” he said. “For what people pay in taxes they should have 24-hour police protection and a road crew.”

Pettit said the layoffs could be an eye-opener for residents.

“The people in this township need to wake up and see what kind of government is being run up here. Someone needs to be held responsible,” he said. “This is going to be a big, big blow to township residents.”

Savona, however, said he hopes residents understand the fiscal scenario that has unfolded before the supervisors, and realize that “we can get by for a couple of months” if need be.

“I really don’t think the people of Fallowfield Township are that excitable,” he said.


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