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Budget crisis forces layoffs in Jellico

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By Natasha Colbaugh

 Jellico Mayor Forster Baird made the call to layoff three officers in the Jellico Police Department earlier this month.

Budget concerns forced the layoffs, according to Baird.

“I was able to make the decision for the city without any politics,” said Baird.

The three officers let go were the last three hired. John Blankenship and Wayne Martin were both removed from full-time positions. Part-time officer Mike Perkins was also terminated.

“The mayor said we could not afford to keep them all,” said Jellico Police Chief Chris Anderson. “It’s a bad situation but they must have more money going out than they got coming in.”

Anderson said he needed the eight full-time and one part-time officer, but he is now filling the shifts with the six remaining officers.

“It will have an affect on us but I guess we’ll make it,” said Anderson

There will be one officer scheduled per shift with two officers on Friday and Saturday.

The police department is still the largest staffed division  in the town of Jellico. The street department is the next highest, but Baird said there was no room to cut in that department.

“This is not a political thing, this is a money thing,” said Baird. “It’s not easy to lay people off and I know it has to affect families here. I did what I had to do.”

The mayor has the right to hire and fire employees, according to the charter.

Payments in liability and workers compensation insurance average about $72,000, according to Baird.

In order to make budget the cuts had to be made, said the mayor.

“Nobody seems to be that concerned (with the budget),” said Baird. “I don’t want to leave the city worse than it is now.”

Baird and several aldermen are not running for re-election on the upcoming ballot. The new mayor and aldermen will not be faced with layoffs since Baird has already cut from the police department, he said.

“This has nothing to do with personalities. I had to make a move before the money was gone,” said Baird.