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Lawmakers ask for delay in parks layoffs

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Dec. 15, 2011 at 10:26 am | No Comments »
December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

State lawmakers are asking for a delay in layoffs of park rangers.

The Parks and Recreation Commission this month notified 160 employees their jobs are at risk because of lower-than-expected revenue from the new $30 parking pass for state lands. Many of them will be moved to seasonal, five-months-a-year employment.

Park rangers and their union, the Washington Federation of State Employees, criticized the cuts and legislators, led by Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, are collecting signatures on a letter to the commission calling for a delay.

The letter the lawmakers plan to send this afternoon says pink slips are going out Monday. It says:

With the timeline being extremely tight, there has been little time for legislators to hear of and digest this reduction, let alone time to understand its full impact. We are asking for this process to be slowed down to consider whether this is the best way to target the reductions, if we are compromising public safety, how the public will be served, and if the Parks and Recreation agency mission can still be met. What we are coming to understand is the reductions hit the front line staff disproportionately when compared to management positions that do not interact with the public.

A bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers signed the letter.

It’s clear many on the commission see it differently. Spokeswoman Virginia Painter said while the upcoming cuts fall more on the front lines, past cuts were targeted at administrative functions.

Of a delay, she said:

Each month that we delay costs us another $750,000 and that’s going to mean more cuts. That’s why we’re moving quickly.

UPDATED 1:55 p.m. with the letter:

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