FORT EDWARD -- The Washington County Highway Department will shut down for a week in August, leaving 60-plus people without a paycheck.
In an effort to balance the budget, the county cut about $350,000 from the county payroll on the first of the year and budgeted two days off without pay for every county employee, as part of a voluntary leave program, said Kevin Hayes, the county administrator.
But because the contracts for union employees in the Highway Department guarantee workers a 40-hour week, Hayes said, those workers would still get a week's pay even if they took two days off.
To accommodate voluntary furlough days, the union would have had to amend the contracts, which at first they refused to do, so Hayes said the county decided to shut the department down for a week.
In negotiations, Hayes said, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 294, the union representing Highway Department employees, agreed to amend the contract if the county agreed not to lay off anyone else for the rest of the year.
Without knowing how much state aid the county was going to receive, Hayes said, the board couldn't agree to a layoff moratorium.
"So therefore, now, we're going ahead with a one-week shutdown, beginning the week of Aug. 23, and the men have been notified," Hayes said.
The weeklong layoff affects 60-plus union workers in the Highway Department.
Because the department has only about 15 nonunion workers, it will essentially stop operating for a week, according to Jackson Supervisor Alan Brown, who is the chairman of the Public Works Committee.
"You're not going to have any trucks running or blacktop going down, or roadsides being mowed, so it's essentially shutting the Highway Department down. When we saw our budget position, the concept was furloughs, but it didn't work," he said.
Brown said he wishes layoffs weren't necessary.
"The furlough system works so that people can take hours off in different pay periods, so the economic impact would be minimal. Now, they are being laid off for one whole week, so they lose a whole week's pay all at once, which is not always easy for people," he said.
Hayes said the county has set goals for each department on voluntary furlough days. So far, he said, the county has saved about a third of the $192,000 worth of time county leaders were looking for.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 294 union did not return calls to the The Post-Star by deadline.