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State park workers get notice of layoffs

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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MASSENA — Albany may be telling state workers that layoffs will not be finalized until early December, but at least four state park workers got an early notice Tuesday when they were told to start packing their bags and prepare to leave at the end of the year.


Robert Moses State Park Nature Center Director Mary A. Danboise said Kevin A. Kieff, director of the Thousand Islands office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, met with her and other employees at the nature center Tuesday morning and gave them a blue folder that provided information for state employees that are being laid off — such as information on their health insurance.


Mrs. Danboise, who has directed the nature center for the past 18 years, and her assistant, Linda M. Besio, as well as a secretary and a maintenance position are among the nearly 900 state jobs Gov. David A. Paterson plans to eliminate to help the state close a projected $8 billion shortfall in next year's budget.


Mr. Kieff — who declined to comment Tuesday and referred all questions to Albany — also told nature center employees that workers at Wellesley Island State Park also were informed of their status Monday, Mrs. Danboise said.


Division of Budget spokes-man Erik J. Kriss said Tuesday afternoon, however, that state workers should not be receiving final layoff notifications before Dec. 10 and declined to comment on which positions are being slashed in the regional parks system.


"Layoff notices will go out on Dec. 10 and the actual layoffs will take effect on Dec. 31," Mr. Kriss said, adding that the job cuts are the governor's "last resort."


Gov. Paterson, who announced Oct. 28 his plan to cut 898 out of 200,000 state jobs, blamed union leaders who rejected his requests to furlough state workers or delay paychecks to save $250 million and avoid layoffs.


In the state parks system, 94 jobs will be terminated and two golf courses that were losing money may be privatized.


"He had put forward alternative plans," Mr. Kriss said. "The union rejected those proposals and left the governor no choice but to lay off state workers."


Friends of the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center President Richard J. Marshall said the news was devastating as his group has been in discussions with the New York Power Authority to rebuild the program's building — which was damaged by a March 2 fire at its Barnhart Island location.


"Massena really needed something good to happen. We lost the Kroc Center, General Motors — this looked like something that was going to be good for Massena. We were discussing potential sites with the power authority a month ago," he said.


Johnson Newspapers writer Ryne Martin contributed to this report.

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