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Ogdensburg Housing Authority cuts job after budget error

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Ogdensburg Housing Authority maintenance employee Gregory J. Denny will be out of a job at the end of March, thanks to a $40,000 hole in a budget approved by the authority board last year.

He is one of two employees whose job has been effected by the budget gap, leaving other employees feeling uncertain about their job security.

Mr. Denny was hired in the fall. He said Monday that up until he got the news of his termination two weeks ago, the Housing Authority had been an ideal place to work. He said he has a good relationship with employees and management.

“I love the job. If I could keep it I’d be tickled pink,” he said.

Maintenance Supervisor and Modernization Coordinator Thomas R. Bouchey, who has been with the authority for 16 years, will be taking a $6,400 pay cut and a demotion this year, also thanks to the shortfall.

Mr. Bouchey said the the board decided two weeks ago to move him back into the maintenance union, and, in the process, cut Mr. Denny’s job as a money saving measure.

“We’re in a little bit of a jam, not to say we can’t pull ourselves out of it, but some decisions have to be made,” Housing Authority board Chairman Michael P. Frary said at Monday’s board meeting.

Speaking to Mr. Denny and Mr. Bouchey, Mr. Frary said, “It’s not a personal thing; it’s money. Nobody likes to send anybody home.”

Mr. Frary and authority Executive Director William J. Seymour Jr. wouldn’t comment on the budget or how the board last year approved a spending plan that was in the hole by $40,000.

The total budget in 2013 was $2,629,320.

During open session, Mr. Frary said the board working on ways to save money in this year’s budget.

Mr. Bouchey’s demotion will see him taking over as the senior maintenance employee, and he will rejoin the authority’s Civil Service Employee Association.

Mr. Bouchey said morale among the employees is at an all-time low, with newer hires wondering if they are next on the chopping block.

“For 15 years I loved my job,” he said. “The people that I worked with are all great people. Now this has hit.”

Mr. Bouchey said the board should have been talking about ways to save money two years ago, and in a speech delivered to the board said every effort has been made by the employees to cut costs.

In 2012 and 2013, Mr. Bouchey said, a valve and faucet replacement project budgeted for $87,000 at Riverview and Centennial Towers was completed for $32,522 by having the work done internally.

Mr. Bouchey said the crew has worked to complete a number of projects internally, saving between $85,000 and $95,000 in two years.

“What is it that you do?” Mr. Bouchey asked the board. “What have you done over the last two years? I understand that you have approved a budget that was negative $40,000, and then approved hiring another maintenance man. Who in their right mind would do this?”

He said the decision to cut positions to make up for the mistake was too easily made.

“As far as I’m concerned, you took the easy way out,” Mr. Bouchey said. “How about for once we hold the people that put us in this position accountable?”

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