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Commissioners question Boshears about layoffs

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By PETER SAWYER

Commissioners questioned Campbell County Environmental Services Director T. Don Boshears about recent layoffs within the department.
As a cost-saving measure, Boshears laid off five employees on March 11 in order to reduce hours at nine convenience centers countywide. Previously, the dumping lots operated 10 hours a day, seven days a week. However, nine of the 10 centers will now be closed Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
An environmental services committee meeting was Monday where many commissioners not on the committee joined in questioning Boshears.
“They’re (citizens) bombarding us with calls,” said commissioner Terry Singley, who indicated voters had called to blame commissioners for the layoffs.
The reason Boshears laid off five workers was to reduce his budget. Eliminating the five workers saved the department $55,000, Boshears said.
Environmental Service Committee Chair Tom Hatmaker asked Boshears why there was a funding problem if the commission set the budget for an entire year.
“I was told I needed to cut my budget,” Boshears said.
Campbell County Finance Director Jeff Marlow said there needed to be some adjustments, according to Walter Sutton, from the environmental services department.
Adjustments were recommended to make room in next year’s budget and spread the payment for unemployment compensation over two years, Marlow said in an email.
Its not the finance department’s fault, Singley said at the meeting.
Ayers told Boshears she would prefer he told the public if he wasn’t able to stay within the budget the commission set for him.
“If you couldn’t stay within the budget, that’s not my fault,” commissioner Marie Ayers said.
Commissioner Bobby White asked Boshears when he became aware there was a problem with the budget.
“Two months,” Boshears said.
“We budgeted for that,” commissioner Steve Rutherford said.
“What major financial decision was made to cause such a shortfall,” Singley asked.
“Overtime had a lot to do with,” Boshears said.
People took sick days and vacation days, Boshears said.
The environmental services department also purchased a new truck for $28,000, and a burner for $2,100, Boshears said. However, Boshears couldn’t give an amount for overtime cost.
“As director of that department, I’ve got a hard time with you not knowing what the overtime is,” Singley said.
“That’s your job,” Hatmaker said.
Commissioners expressed concern Boshears laid off employees who had worked for the county longer than employees who kept their jobs.
“Why wasn’t seniority used?” Hall asked.
“I just wanted to keep the best ones,” Boshears said. “I did not see anything that said I had to use seniority.”
“What did you use to determine what a ‘best employee’ was?” Ayers asked.
“I’m familiar with all these people that was laid off,” Boshears said. “I didn’t lay them off because they wasn’t doing their jobs. We did have a lot of absentees, that’s a part of why we had a lot of overtime.”
Commissioner Alvin Evans shared concern about convenience centers being closed on Sundays.
“Sunday is a major (day) for garbage in our district,” Evans said. “When they start coming they and start throwing it outside the fence, what are you going to do?”
Evans called county mayor William Baird since the meeting and asked him to have the centers operate on Sunday and close on Wednesdays.
Commissioner Rusty Orick asked Boshears how many convenience centers there are in Campbell County.
The Campbell County Environmental Services Department provides 10 dumping lots, Boshears said. They are located in Stony Fork, Vasper, Peabody, White Oak, Jellico, Stinking Creek, Elk Valley, Well Springs, College Hill and Towe String Road.
“We’re required to have one convenience center,” Baird said.
The center on Towe String Road remains open seven days a week, Baird said.
How do we compare?
Campbell County provides more dumps than Scott County, Claiborne County and Union County.
Scott County only provides one recycling center for its residents. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., according to Scott County Solid Waste Director Shonda Crabtree.
“The recycling center is used daily,” Crabtree said. “We also have dumpsters for people to bring trash.”
There are no other county-run convenience centers in Scott County but there is a privately run landfill and private companies offer trash pickup, Crabtree said.
Claiborne County offers eight staffed convenience centers, Claiborne County Sanitation Director Mike Russell said. Six of the centers are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and two of them are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays.
Union County provides six staffed convenience centers, Union County Sanitation Director Becky Munsey said. The main center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday. The seven “satellite centers” are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
Before Boshears makes major decisions in the future, he needs to let the environmental services committee know, Hatmaker said.
“I think you should have let us have some knowledge of that before it happened,” he said.
However, Boshears isn’t required to report to the commission or the environmental services committee, according to Campbell County Deputy Mayor David Young.
“They (the commission) are there for the budget only,” Young said. “The director is responsible for operating it (the department) within the budget they approve. They (commissioners) can’t micromanage his department any more than they can any other department. They’re there strictly for budget purposes. Not for direct oversight over his department.”
The environmental services committee is an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the commission. Boshears wasn’t even required to attend Monday’s meeting, Young said.