Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | 2 a.m.
North Las Vegas cuts
Here's a breakdown of cuts, as provided by the city, of jobs being cut in North Las Vegas:
For 20 years, Beverley Walton had a job at the North Las Vegas Detention Center, and then one day, she did not.
It was June 4. Walton said she and approximately 45 other civilian co-workers were asked to attend a meeting with the deputy chief and members of the city’s human relations staff. She knew this meeting was coming, dreaded it — yet she never believed it would actually happen.
That day, they told Walton and 41 other Teamsters union employees, all co-workers in the jail, they would be jobless come Fourth of July.
“We kind of knew,” Walton said. “But reality is a bitter pill to swallow.”
On June 20, the North Las Vegas City Council unanimously approved shutting down most of the detention center and shipping misdemeanor and pretrial inmates to the Las Vegas Detention Center. A total of 93 civilian and police employees were let go.
Walton and the detention center were one of many difficult budget cuts North Las Vegas is undertaking to help eliminate a budget deficit once estimated at more than $30 million. Beginning July 1, city services will be streamlined, hours cut, furloughs enforced, and approximately 108 city workers will lose jobs.
Mayor Shari Buck said the cuts were difficult but necessary if the city is to ever climb out of its financial hole.
“(The hardest part is) knowing that there are employees and families who have lost their jobs, and I can’t guarantee they’re going to find another job in the valley,” Buck said. “It’s the reality of what laying someone off really means. That’s really hard, but I have a responsibility to be responsible and to make tough decisions.”
City Manager Tim Hacker said the goal was to reduce expenses and eliminate inefficiencies throughout the city’s departments without affecting services that directly impact residents. In addition to curtailing operations at the jail, the moves include:
• Limiting overtime hours for firefighters and police officers.
• Eliminating several behind-the-scene positions in street and utility maintenance.
• Cutting back hours of operation at the library and recreation centers.
• Enforcing furloughs.
Hacker said more than 215 people could’ve lost jobs if the city hadn’t declared a state of financial emergency earlier this month. Most of the 108 job cuts by the city will come from workers in the North Las Vegas Detention Center. The rest were spread throughout administrative services, finance and public works, among others.
The goal, Hacker said, was to avoid cutting jobs that would directly impact services to residents.
“As long as the action of the city council isn’t overturned, I don’t think (residents) will notice a great disparity in city services,” Hacker said. “The departments have done a great job minimizing services that go directly to customers in the field and looked at other ways to reduce (costs).”
Hacker said the biggest adjustment residents would notice would be the change in library and recreation center hours. Both the Alexander Library and Aliante Library will be open for four days instead of five.
For some residents like Sterling Adair, that means one less day he can search for a third part-time job and respond to work emails. The library is his main source for Internet service. Others, like Mary Smith, rely on the library for its computers and as an entertainment outlet.
“I come here often enough to have that affect me,” Adair said. “I thought their hours were too short as it is. That is not good news to me at all.”
There will be adjustments for both fire and police departments. Police officers will have to travel an extra 11 minutes to reach the Las Vegas Detention Center to book criminals. Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, said the differential could lead to more crime. Yarter believes the distance and new booking procedure along with fewer beds available for criminals could lead to softer sentences.
“Time will tell, but I don’t see how not having your own jail facility is going to help,” Yarter said. “How is that going to help curb crime?”
Some fire stations, like Fire Station 56 near the Aliante Station resort and a retirement community, will be closed on various days during the week, depending on staff availability. Jeff Hurley, president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Association, said emergency response vehicles would also decrease, from 19 to 9.
“It’ll be disastrous come July 1,” Hurley said.
Jeff Case, a resident near Fire Station 56, said he may start looking to live elsewhere if services are being cut. The casino, he said, is one of the biggest employers and attractions in North Las Vegas, yet his main concern is for a retirement community in the area.
“When we have city services close to us, it gives us a peace of mind,” Case said. “In these times, it’s a luxury we can’t afford lately. It seems sad. Seems like we are making cuts in all the wrong places.”
Hacker said the city was looking into utilizing paddy wagons and hiring private EMTs for medical emergencies to help ease any negative impact and doesn’t expect the cuts to affect emergency services.
Come July 1, a lot will change in North Las Vegas, and Buck and Hacker hope most won’t notice.
Yet, Walton and 108 other former city employees will notice. Walton said she would be fine living on a forced medical retirement income and her spouse’s income, but she knows many more whose lives will be altered.
“I talked to a few officers that they are laying off, and no matter what happens, they have to walk away from their homes,” Walton said. “I’ll be fine. We’ll survive. ... When (God) closes one door, he opens another.”
Amidst the bleakness, however, Buck says she sees the first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s this pulling together as a community ... and a lot of hope for a better future,” she said. “So that’s what keeps us going. We’re going to recover as a city, going to be able to move past this, and hopefully in the next few short years, the hard times will be behind us, move forward and bring people back on.”