Economy blamed for Helena's job cuts

By Sherea Harris

HELENA, AL (WBRC) - Helena is laying off some employees, including firefighters. City leaders are also cutting hours at the police department, all to save money.

Officials say there is a lot less revenue coming into the city right now and it's blamed on the economy.

There's been a drop in revenue from sales taxes, building permits and property tax collections.   
The mayor and the council looked a different ways to make up for the shortfall and made a tough decision of making layoffs.

Twelve firemen and 3 city employees were released. All were part-time employees. Hours for part-time police officers were cut as well. The streets and sanitation department will have shorter work days.

Some wonder if the cuts will impact citizens who depend on quick response from police and firefighters.

"Yeah, it does make me concerned and I guess I do feel a little bit less safe," said Teri Portwood

"All three fire stations are still manned," said Deputy Chief Tim Carter. "The police and fire departments are still fully staffed. (We) are not going to miss any calls. The citizens of Helena should not worry about lack of services."

Deputy Chief Carter says in his 23 years working for the city, things have never gotten to this point financially.

The layoffs and cutbacks will free up thousands of dollars a month for the city and save the jobs of full time employees.

City officials encourage people to help improve the 20% decline in sales tax revenue by spending their money at local stores, instead of going outside of the city to shop for necessities.

Adding to the loss in revenue is Winn Dixie's demise, it will close later this year. The city says they are already searching for another tenant to fill the space.

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