County Council members appear reluctant to pass a bill requested by County Executive Robert R. Neall that would clear the way for laying off employees in the next few months.
Neall has said that his budget includes plans to lay off workers. As a first step, he has asked the council to pass a measure May 4 that clarifies layoff procedures, essentially prohibiting workers due to get the ax from bumping employees with less seniority in other departments and classifications.
Defenders of the bill say that bumping -- in which a laid-off employee could take the job of someone in a lesser job classification in another department -- could place employees into new jobs they couldn't handle. They say management decisions, such as who works in what jobs, should be left up to department heads.
At a briefing on the measure Wednesday, council members questioned the fairness of the measure and said they wanted more time to study it.
They also said that they were concerned about its effect on hiring goals for minorities and women, and that they were being flooded with calls from employees concerned about their job security.
"If a person's a secretary in Inspections and Permits with five years experience and she gets a layoff notice, she can't bump someone with less seniority in another department. That is wrong," said Councilman George Bachman.
Bachman said he's received 25 to 30 calls from workers concerned about being laid off.
Personnel director Donald Tynes Sr. told council members Neall's budget calls for abolishing 175 positions, which includes both filled positions and vacancies. He declined to say how many workers may be laid off.
But council members said even a small number would be traumatic for those affected.
"The person who loses that job, it's a massive crisis in his life," said Councilman Edward Middlebrooks.
Michael Milanowski, county labor relations director, said if the council fails to pass the measure, the county would likely consult with its attorneys and proceed anyway with the layoff procedures spelled out in the bill. He said Neall introduced the bill as a way to get feedback and win support from the council.
"The fact of the matter is we have two branches of government here, and it would probably be in the best interest of the county to have both branches agree on layoff procedures," he said.
The council last night also heard a report on the 1992 update of the county's water and sewer master plan.
The plan predicts the county's population will increase from the current 427,000 to 504,000 by the year 2010, raising demand for water to 189 million gallons a day. The current water system has a capacity for pumping 109 million gallons a day.
To quench the county's thirst in 20 years, the plan says, county officials should either purchase more water from Baltimore or develop potential wells sites in South County. The county has an agreement with Baltimore to purchase up to 32.5 million gallons of water a day. The county is now purchasing only minimal amounts of water -- 2 million to 3 million gallons per day during dry spells, county officials said.
County officials say they are planning for the future with steps that include $30 million worth of water projects, including upgrading existing wells, constructing a 10 million-gallon-a-day water plant east of Fort Meade and installing new storage tanks and transmission mains in areas where there might be spot shortages during dry spells.
Gregory V. Nourse, a county budget analyst who handles capital projects, said the construction projects will be paid for by users of the utility system and not out of general county revenue.