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City announces furlough of a third of employees

The City of Andalusia has announced it will furlough more than a third of its employees, effective Monday, April 13.

Mayor Earl Johnson personally communicated the news to employees in meetings on Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3, to give them time to prepare for the changes.

“As we deal with the effects of the pandemic on the national, state and local economies, we have had to make some difficult decisions for the City of Andalusia,” Mayor Earl Johnson said Friday. “We are reducing some of the services the city provides and furloughing more than a third of our employees.”

The changes do not affect police protection, fire protection or sanitation (garbage) services, the mayor said.

However, trash pick-up (limbs and other yard debris) will not be done weekly. Instead, Director of Public Works Glynn Ralls said, residents can expect to have limbs and other debris picked up every two to three weeks. He also asks that residents separate limbs and other yard clippings from other debris like mattresses. Ralls said that the city also will suspend curbside recycling after collections on Thursday, April 9.

Beginning April 7, the city’s landfill will be temporarily closed to the public.

The city’s Nutrition Center will continue to provide meals to the senior population.

The city’s library, adult activity center and parks have been closed for several weeks, which reduces the work loads of many employees, the mayor said.

“The city’s primary source of income is sales taxes, which will be significantly reduced while the majority of our local businesses are closed,” Johnson said. “We have an obligation to our citizens to manage city services as tightly as possible to ensure that we can operate throughout the economic crisis created by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I have assured those employees affected that it is our intent to recall them as soon as the economy begins to recover,” he said. “They are not just employees, they are family.”

The CARES package approved by Congress and signed into law by the president increases unemployment benefits to those employees who are displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is not a decision we made lightly,” the mayor said. “Our decisions were shaped in part by the knowledge that our employees are eligible for benefits through the CARES Act.”

The mayor said that all Americans are being asked to make sacrifices.

“If we think back in the history of the United States, we have asked American citizens to do difficult things,” he said. “During World War II, those who stayed at home made tremendous sacrifices to support the war effort. As a result of this pandemic, we are asking Americans to make big sacrifices again. Some in our city family will sacrifice by dealing with a furlough, while others will be called upon to take on additional responsibilities.”