Originally created 04/28/01

City of Denmark forges ahead with drastic cuts



DENMARK, S.C. - Denmark officials delivered pink slips and furlough notifications Friday as the city carries out a drastic cutback to address financial mismanagement and heavy debt.

Reaction was immediate.

Assistant Police Chief Joe Bell delivered his resignation to City Hall, saying he could not handle the decrease from 40 to 30 hours a week, according to Clerk Administrator Pat Anduze.

"He told me he couldn't take any more pay cuts when he could go on retirement and get more money," she said.

Police Investigator Joey Patsourakos works in Denmark but lives in neighboring Ehrhardt. Building a house has already drained his finances and forced him and his wife to live paycheck to paycheck.

"I'm down to the bare minimum now," he said. "It's going to be hard to make ends meet. Really, I don't know what we are going to do."

Firefighters who already endured a cut this year from $15 to $7.50 per call will now be given no reimbursement for responding to emergencies. Fire officials say that means fewer people will respond to the emergencies, such as house fires or car crashes.

Denmark City Council voted Wednesday to take extreme measures to address an expected deficit of $48,000 by the end of the fiscal year. To save $25,000, council members agreed to cut their own salaries, lay off five part-time employees, cut hours for all full-time employees, eliminate overtime and take away reimbursement for firefighters. Ms. Anduze is working on ways to raise the remaining $23,000 needed to pay city bills.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, along with the FBI and the state Forestry Commission, continues to investigate possible irregularities in the way finances have been managed in Denmark. A surplus of $600,000 in 1995 quickly turned into a deficit of more than $600,000 in 2000 under the leadership of Mayor Carolyn Davis.

Now residents and city employees are feeling the bite.

The Denmark Police Department is scrambling to find ways to continue around-the-clock coverage for this town of 3,640.

Police Chief Joe Jenkins talked with the police squad Friday about volunteering the 10 hours that were cut from their paycheck each week.

"He's actually begging for the guys to help him out," Mr. Patsourakos said. "I believe if we get everybody to pull together we can pull through it."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.