What some described to be a stressful community meeting wrapped up at an East Cleveland community center Wednesday night.
The city's mayor, Gary Norton, hosted a town hall meeting at the Helen S. Brown Community Center. It was the first time Norton addressed the recent police department cuts since 20 members were handed layoff notices on January 9th.
Residents who attended, like sisters Vivian Nassar and Yvonne Somerville, arrived early, anxious to hear what the mayor had to say about these cuts. With safety their first concern, Nassar told NewsChannel5, "…this means we won't have safety, response time will get longer and longer. I've lived in East Cleveland for a long time and I don't want to see it go down anymore."
Norton's town hall lasted about two hours and included a Power Point presentation of the different budgets and a slide that showed how much the East Cleveland Police Department's revenue contributes to the city as a whole.
The recent 25% cut to the East Cleveland Police Department, as the mayor outlined Wednesday night, will not only equal just four officers on the street. Norton also said it will mean no Narcotics Unit, no Traffic Unit and no Warrant Unit, which he said, all sums-up to a tremendous revenue loss for the city.
"Council, by thinking it was cutting $1.2 million dollars in costs, it's actually cutting $700,000 to the city as well," said East Cleveland's Mayor, Gary Norton.
Just how layoffs got this far is something Mayor Norton and East Cleveland's City Council keep going back and forth on. But the message most were paying attention to Wednesday is: the layoffs can be reversed.
"In three weeks the actual officer layoffs take effect so within that time frame we certainly hope that we can convince council that this community's safety is important," said Norton, telling NewsChannel 5, there is still time for East Cleveland's City Council to hire back any of the officers issued layoff notices.
Norton said it's been done before in the past but noted, it is a decision East Cleveland's City Council must make and not the mayor.
NewsChannel 5 did not immediately see any East Cleveland City Council Members to speak to about Norton's remarks Wednesday night.
On January 9th, Mayor Norton issued a statement reading, "Due to East Cleveland City Council’s $1.2 million (25%) reduction in the city’s police budget, 10 police officers and 10 dispatchers/records clerks received layoff notices today."
East Cleveland's Police Chief, Ralph Spotts told Wednesday's audience, the number laid off is now 21.
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