City of Merced rescinds 17 layoff notices

Seventeen Merced city employees whose jobs were on the line have gotten a reprieve.

City officials said late Friday that they had decided to rescind 17 of 64 layoff notices sent to city employees last month.

The layoffs were slated because of the city's $5.5 million general fund deficit. The rescinded notices include 10 sworn officer positions with the Merced Police Department and seven with the Fire Department.

"The positions saved will be used to backfill patrol," Police Chief Norm Andrade said.

Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin said all seven positions saved in his department are firefighters. The decision, McLaughlin said, was "a partnership. Many people have been working hard to do what we can -- my department, the finance department, the city manager."

What that means is one fire station won't be shut down on a full-time basis, McLaughlin said. The department will use a "browning out" system in which the department will reduce staff or close a company for a day, he said. One company is three firefighters.

"It would be dependent on leave," McLaughlin said. "Based on personnel using leave, we will be in a position to brown out, or closing the station some of the time to be able to manage overtime yet maintain higher staffing levels."

That will help "reduce layoffs, prevents overtime from skyrocketing and allows us to keep all stations open with the exception of days they are browned out," he said.

City spokesman Mike Conway said money from the city's reserve will pay for the saved positions, though a cost figure isn't available.

At a meeting today, the City Council will decide whether to approve the 47 remaining layoffs. A final vote on the budget is expected June 20. Unless the council makes changes to the budget, the last day of employment for employees who received a layoff notice would be June 26.

The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Merced Civic Center.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385- 2477 or abutt@mercedsun-star.com.