NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Being in fiscal emergency and failing to balance the budget has created tension in Niles, resulting in a chaotic city council meeting Wednesday night.
During the public comment session, Fire Union President Bill Santell warned of problems if the fire inspectors were not called back.
“Mr. Cafaro wants to open his headquarters, but that’s not going to happen unless there’s a fire inspector there to do it.”
Bob Ward, Vice President of the AFSME Local 506 workers union, spoke about dealing with the constant fears his members have about losing their jobs.
“You know what? You people do not know the feeling that we have to deal with every day when your guys come up to you and say, ‘Am I going to get laid off?'”
George Kuriatny, of Niles, addressed council, wondering why the tax department hadn’t been eliminated and the work outsourced. When Service Director Jim DePasquale tried interjecting, the two engaged in a heated exchange.
When Kuriatny called him a liar, DePasquale rose from his chair and took a few steps toward him before stopping.
Later, Councilman Stephen Papalas reiterated his call to move the Niles Dispatcher to Trumbull 911, saying there’s not a police chief anywhere who would keep dispatchers over his own men. This angered Jay Holland, acting police chief.
“Then put a document in front of me saying we’ll recall those policemen. You won’t do it,” Holland said.
Councilwoman Linda Marchese said she supported the dispatchers.
In a statement posted to the Niles Police Department Facebook page, Holland clarified, in part:
At no time was the police department given a choice between laying off our police officers or outsourcing dispatch operations to Trumbull County. And since the layoffs, not once has Chief Hinton or myself been approached by any of our city leaders with an offer in writing that would return our laid off officers if we agreed to outsource dispatch.
Mayor Tom Scarnecchia reiterated that he wanted to have his salary cut in half for the rest of year.
He also told his non-union employees to expect to see their share of health insurance increased, and he’s asking the unions to do the same.
Council President Bob Marino said he was disappointed by the behavior displayed at the meeting.
“What I saw this evening is very disappointing to me. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, all of us.”