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Negotiations continue between city, unions

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said he remains optimistic the city and the three unions that represent the city’s police, fire and public works employees will be able to reach agreements to avoid layoffs; negotiations continue.

Blankenship met Friday with representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 75. He will meet Monday with the International Association of Firefighters Local 532 and then Friday with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 771 that represents the street, water works, sewer plant and sanitation departments.

Last week, the city issued notices to five police officers and four police dispatchers as well as three firefighters and all public workers employees, advising them they could be laid off in May given the city’s financial constraints.

“I remain optimistic,” Blankenship said. “I want to reach an agreement we can all live with.” The contract with the police department ended April 1 and fire department’s contract expired March 31. The AFSCME contract ended at the end of January.

The three firefighters were Aaron Collins, Scott Cunningham and Larry Pernestti. Blankenship said all members of public works got the notices because they all have “bumping rights,” or the right to go to another department and “bump” a person with less seniority.

Collins said the layoff notices were a surprise for him and the other two firefighters who got the potential pink slips.

“We haven’t even started negotiating yet,” Collins said. “It’s disheartening. We’ve not actually gotten the chance to sit down and talk.” Collins said he thought the recently increased municipal fee and the change in the reciprocity agreement were meant to help save jobs.

Brett Layne, president of the AFSCME local that represents the public works employees, could not be reached for comment. Pam Neal Wagner, president of the F.O.P. local said previously the loss would reduce a 16-person police force to 11 including the police chief.

Blankenship said he is required by contract to notify employees 30 days before a layoff and that is why he sent out the notices. He said no one has been laid off yet.

The five police officers are John Hammonds, Chad Gue, Larry Large, Jamie Pruitt and Chad Artrip; the five dispatchers are Kenton Jordan, Michelle Colvin, Troy Eddleman and Mark Duncan.

Fire Chief Tom Runyon said he is working on a letter to city officials explaining how such manpower cuts would affect his department and its ability to protect city residents.

The ones laid off, he said, “were my Haz Mat (hazardous materials) techs, the ones with Firefighter II training, medical training and it all stands to be lost.” Runyon said he thought other department heads might do the same.