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City of Dowagiac to privatize water treatment plant, cut 4 jobs

A packed city council meeting Monday night after the mayor and city manager announced they want to privatize waste-water treatment.

The council unanimously voted to push through the proposed recommendation.

The move is putting jobs on the chopping block and four city employees are most likely out at their positions and looking for new work just days into the new year.

James Stevens is an operator at the Waste Water Treatment Plant for City of Dowagiac.

“I’ve never been disciplined. I’ve never received any type of communication that I haven’t done my job properly or thoroughly. So it was really kind of a shock,” said Stevens.

Along with working at the plant, Stevens, is a volunteer fire fighter and a reserve police officer.

 "It kind of lets me down. I don’t do the extra stuff, for recognition of anything. I do it because it’s my community,” said Stevens.

He’s worked for the city for 11 years but one phone call on December 15th may change all of that.

 “They told us the city manager has voted in a proposal that would outsource our jobs to a private contractor,” said Stevens.

That day the city notified representatives at IBEW Local 876 of the possible changes that will affect the jobs of four employees including Stevens.

Donato Iorio represents the four city employees.

“Unfortunately we had a responsibility to let them know. The city didn’t even have the decency to let these four employees know they would be terminated,“ said Iorio.

The IBEW presented documentation to the Dowagiac City Council Monday night, some of the paperwork dating back to 2010.

Inspections from the DNR saying the 30-year-plant needed upgrades and had inadequate staffing.

It’s going to cost the city more to privatize than to staff properly, upgrade the equipment and give the people what they deserve. Clean water,” said Iorio.

Kevin Anderson is Manager with the City of Dowagiac.

"Part of the reason for taking a look at this is meeting the DQ standards that we need to meet,” said Anderson.

 In Monday’s meeting Anderon and Mayor Donald Lyons cited problems at the plant even after spending $2 million in 2016 to bring in additional help.

“Could this impact four employees. Absolutely. But as we have looked at this, there is a way through contracting that these employees would be offered a job so these people are not left without employment,” said Anderson.

Those words not at all softening the blow for the four city employees, who say it boils down to quality and investment in the city they live in.

"If everybody gives back to the community, we are all part of something. It really lets me down that they tell me I’m not doing my job and they want to give it to somebody else,” said Stevens.

After Monday night’s unanimous vote, Iorio said the fight isn’t over and they plan to take legal action.

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