CUMBERLAND — Union members of the Allegany County 911 Communications Center voted to reject county government’s call for help and will not voluntarily give up two paid holidays.

The Board of Commissioners had asked all departments in recent weeks to re-evaluate their budgets. For union shops, such as the 911 center, the issue came more in the form of a request than an order.

The emergency dispatchers voted 16-3 against giving up any holidays.

Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Mackert is president of Public Safety Union Local 1521 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The organization represents nearly 100 county employees at 911, the detention center, sheriff’s office and animal control.

Mackert said the dispatchers asked if they could give up vacation time or a sick day, but that county staff discarded that possibility because it wasn’t a true savings.

“I don’t know what happens” next with the dispatchers, Mackert said. “They can’t take those holidays from them due to their contract. It was on a voluntary basis. They could furlough ... I don’t know what other (choices) they have.”

Thirty-four of the 45 correctional officers from the Allegany County Detention Center voted to give up Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day. They reserved the right, however, to change those two days in case there is a previously scheduled commitment. That vote nets the county approximately $23,000 in payroll savings at a time the commissioners are searching for more than $2 million as a result of state budget cuts.

The deputies agreed to fall in line with the county court employees and will be furloughed Dec. 24 and 31 — a savings of approximately $2,300. Animal control voted to agree to the county’s two scheduled, unpaid holidays of Oct. 12 and Nov. 30.

Mackert said he commended the county employees for “making sacrifices” and voting to do their part in the dismal economic climate.

“They gotta make up (the budget shortfall) somewhere,” Mackert said of the commissioners. “I think there are other ways they can cut, but we can honestly say we voluntarily did our part.”

Mackert said dispatchers conveyed to him that they felt slighted after a top county official promised follow-up meetings that were never scheduled.

“I’m slightly disappointed in their decision,” Mackert said, “however, that was their decision and I stand behind their decision. Their reasoning for not doing this was because (an official) promised to come back for (more) meetings and didn’t come. Morale is very low. It’s not getting the level of attention a 911 center should get. I think that directly reflects in their vote.

“I would hope,” Mackert said, “the county would not penalize them on this. After all, they had this right (and) this was on a voluntary basis.”

Punitive action appears unlikely. Acting County Administrator David Eberly said the county realizes the actions of any of the union shops were voluntary.

“I think, what’s important to recognize here, the vote these units were making, at least those that are the 24/7 variety, was an action they were doing as a matter of good will and they were volunteering to the cause,” Eberly said. “It would be difficult for us to sit here and dictate terms and look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Eberly said the dispatchers could be asked to reconsider the matter at a later date.

Sheriff David Goad and Lee Cutter, detention center administrative officer, both support the efforts. Goad’s office also has saved the county more than $14,000 due to not hiring two additional deputies as agreed upon in a February court settlement with the commissioners.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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