Helena cuts city jobs

The lack of revenue coming into the city of Helena this year has cost several city workers their jobs, according to City Councilmember Cris Nelson.

“It’s one of the things Mayor Penhale has been very proud of, that in this economy we haven’t had to resort to laying off workers,” she said. “He regards every employee as family. It was a very heart wrenching decision to make.”

All the workers who were laid off this week were part-time employees, said Helena Police Deputy Chief Tim Carter.

“We feel fortunate to have come this far in this economy and we’re just now having to make cutbacks,” Carter said. “Other cities have been cutting full-time jobs for the last year and a half and we’re fortunate to only have to cut a few part-timer workers.”

The laid-off workers include 12 part-time firefighters, two part-time summer library workers and one part-time parks and recreation staff member. Part-time police officers and street and sanitation workers will be cutting back on hours.

All of the laid off firefighters work full-time at other departments in Shelby and Jefferson counties, Carter said.

The decision to resort to layoffs was a tough one for the mayor and the city council said Nelson.

“Even though they were part-time employees, we understand everyone is used to their standard of living,” Carter said. “When you lose any money at all, it affects you and your family.”

Nelson said the cause for the layoffs is a lack of city revenue. Revenue from sales tax is down 20 percent and revenue from building permits is down 80 percent.

Despite the loss of workers, Carter said public service will not be affected by the cutbacks.

“We’re not going to let the people of Helena lack for anything,” he said. “All three fire stations will remain open. They may not be staffed like before, but they will continue to respond to calls like they always have.”