The Southtown Star reported today that the Village of Matteson layed off 22 employees without warning Tuesday, the result of a reported $2.3 million budget gap. The Matteson Village Board hired financial consulting firm Theobald Associates in April at an estimated cost of over $200,000. Estimates are that the 22 layoffs will save the village $900,000 per year.
This is astounding, and the entire South Suburbs should be very concerned.
WHO GOT THE AX?
On Tuesday, Matteson laid off 22 village employees in efforts to trim a $2.3 million budget deficit. Those let go included two building inspectors, a building permit technician, two secretaries, a clerk, three administrative assistants, two customer service representatives, a community affairs coordinator, a community affairs assistant, a fire inspector, a community service officer, a building maintenance worker, four park maintenance workers and a park maintenance supervisor.
Matteson deputy village administrator Brian Mitchell said the layoffs this week of 22 employees might result in longer waits to pay village bills and the cancellation of some village-sponsored events, such as the Taste of Matteson. Additionally, he said, the firings will affect the village’s ability to plow snow. Although main thoroughfares always will be plowed no matter the time of day, “curb-to-curb” snow removal on the side streets will wait until morning if it snows overnight.
It is of interest that the mayor’s wife, Toni Ashmore, was not let go.
Morale at Matteson Village Hall is understandably low:
Matteson resident Matt Stipek said he witnessed the ugly, post-layoff scene after stopping by village hall Tuesday morning to pick up recycling bags.
“The lady there at the counter was crying, and the other ones looked like they just saw a murder,” he said. “The one lady who was trying to get recycling bags for me was catatonic.”
Matteson is a crucial business hub for surrounding communities. The intersection of Lincoln Highway and Cicero has been a long time coming back. Lincoln Mall is at a crucial juncture right now. The out lots are doing well, but the mall itself needs nurturing and attention.
Just a few years ago, Matteson hosted a “Green Day,” touting the opening of new businesses. Then U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama was in attendance. Things looked so promising, before the Great Bush Recession.
Matteson residents should be concerned. Crisis necessitates a cohesive board which clearly has the interests of the residents at heart. Matteson’s board has been combative for far too long.
In November, Matteson fired the village administrator, an incredibly stupid move, as I’ve already noted. Haney was clearly not fired for cause.
That leaves politics.
According to some close to the village, the former village administrator would not* give his public blessing to the most recent raise the mayor intended to give his wife, the Director of Community Affairs. If so, kudos to him.
When Andre Ashmore ran for mayor, he promised that his wife would not be employed long with the village. This week, he told the Star:
“We’re looking at all contracts, services, stuff that we contract out,” Ashmore said. “When I say everything is on the table, everything is on the table.”
Why, then, is the mayor’s wife still employed with the village?
I’m hoping groups of citizens are organizing now, preparing to put good, ethical people on the ballot. Matteson has not completely disintegrated yet, but it is not now in a good place.
The South Suburbs need Matteson to recover.
* Errata: This posting originally said that the former village administrator would give his blessing to the most recent pay raise the mayor intended to give his wife. That is incorrect. We regret the error and we are grateful to a reader for bringing that error to our attention.
I would like some clarification on another Matteson related issue. But first, a little on my backround is in order. I am a retired Matteson police officer. I served my community proudly for 25 + years. I grew to know & love that town and all of it’s residents and employees. Black or White, rich or poor, young or old, it didn’t matter their safety & well being was my responsibility and my only concern. I took my job very seriously…as did all of my fellow employees. Watching the events of the past few months has made me sick to my stomach! Which brings me to my point. Why did the village raise the retirees healthcare contribution from almost $800. a month to over $1,500. monthly for family coverage when the current employees’ contribution remains the same? Does anyone have an answer for this question?