Lakewood residents want community service officer spared from layoffs

In two weeks, the Lakewood City Council will vote on its two-year budget. If approved without changes, 12 employees will lose their jobs at the end of 2014.

A dozen Lakewood residents testified for more than an hour at a council meeting Monday night trying to save one of the positions on the chopping block: a community service officer job held by Dawn McGinnis for 7 1/2 years.

“We feel the community (service) officer is a critical link between the residents, our neighborhood association, businesses and the city of Lakewood,” said Terry Love, president of the Northeast Neighborhood Association.

“If you feel the position is no longer needed, then perhaps we as an association are no longer needed either,” Love told the council.

He and others credited McGinnis for reducing crime in the community. Gang activity, prostitution, illegal drugs and issues with people squatting in abandoned houses are no longer a regular problem, they said.

McGinnis and the other community service officers have built trust that was previously lacking, they said.

The proposed staff reductions are one way the city is able to balance its $34 million biennial budget. After a year of analyzing the city’s finances, City Manager John Caulfield found areas where the city could save money. One of those was staff reductions.

In total, the city’s 2015-16 budget would have 20 fewer full-time equivalent positions. Some are already vacant or soon to be vacant and won’t be filled.

The collective bargaining unit that oversees the city’s community service officers identified McGinnis for the reduction based on seniority, Caulfield said. The remaining four officers would absorb McGinnis’ territory.

McGinnis was at the meeting Monday. More than once she was moved to tears after hearing people testify on her behalf.

“To think I made that impact, I’m at a loss for words,” she said after the meeting. “The position I am in is a perfect fit, so I hope they reconsider eliminating the position.”

The city will save $77,400 in 2015 and $78,260 in 2016 if it eliminates the position, according to budget projections. The larger staff reductions will save the city $2 million over the two-year budget.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed budget at its Nov. 17 meeting.

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