“I don’t think it was a last resort,” said Ken Leber, retired director of the department, during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I think there needs to be more consideration.”
Leber, a Gallup Avenue resident, had written an editorial to the Reflector in which he said he was “utterly disappointed” in Norwalk Safety-Service Director Dan Wendt announcing that Stacie Strecker would be laid off effective Dec. 31.
Strecker started working part-time for parks and recreation in January 1997. In May 2000, she was hired as the full-time recreation coordinator. She is one of five full-time employees in the department.
“Stacie taught me every sport I’ve learned,” said Lyndsey Wert, of West Main Street.
Eliminating Strecker’s position is the equivalent of taking away a family member or losing a limb, she told council. Wert said Strecker “is a huge part” of why people come to Norwalk and enjoy the recreation facilities offered by the city.
“We need her; we really do,” Wert added.
Department Superintendent Joe Lindenberger said the announcement of laying off Strecker “has had a significant impact on morale with our department and we will have no choice but to cut a substantial amount of services that our residents have come to love.”
“Our current property tax levies are based on 1976 and 1993 property valuations. This means these individual taxes have not been adjusted for inflation in decades. Our funding is so outdated, we are only collecting 44 percent of current values,” Lindenberger said while reading from a prepared statement. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road by renewing outdated levies.”
Christie Avenue resident Pete Perkins, who makes regular donations to the parks and rec department, said he thinks Strecker being laid off will have “a trickle-down effect” and will impact the youth in the community.
“Kids need to come first,” he added.
Fruen Street resident Scott Ford, a retired teacher, said he doesn’t understand how Strecker’s position can be eliminated. He credited Strecker as being “one of the important reasons” that the parks and rec department is as successful as it is.
“Stacie needs to be where she is — serving our youth,” Ford said.
About 40 people attended the council meeting.
“I appreciate all you guys being here supporting us,” Strecker said.
While addressing council, she said her added responsibilities of customer service at the Ernsthausen Community Center and teaching classes has saved the city as much as 37 percent. She also noted there have been no formal complaints filed against her and all her performance reviews have been excellent.
Strecker asked city administrators how they can justify reorganzing a small department that takes up a small part of Norwalk’s budget. She also said it’s unfair and unethical and there’s no justification to have wage increases for other non-union, city employees while laying off her position.
“We’ve been doing so much with so little,” she added.
After the meeting, Strecker said having so many people speak on her behalf means there’s a lot of support from the community for the department and her job.
“I just feel our community needs to be served and I don’t think all the budget-cut options have been exhausted,” she added.