Time running out for meter readers

The city's meter readers might lose their jobs.

Mayor Chris Beutler's budget proposal for next year wants to cut those jobs to save money.  There's also a plan to replace them.

They're officially called public service officers, or PSOs, and in addition to checking the meters, they deal with abandoned cars, minor accidents and traffic around schools.

In the mayor's upcoming budget, their jobs have been cut.  Union President Jeff Stump, who represents around 500 city employees including the PSOs, says getting rid of these positions will shortchange other city workers.  “The PSOs last year handled over 5,000 calls, that aren't going to get done or will be delegated to the police such as abandoned vehicles and parking enforcement.”

It's believed if the budget is approved, nine PSO's would lose their jobs which would save the city close to $300,000.

Even if the jobs are eliminated, it doesn't mean parking in downtown Lincoln parking will be a free for all.  The city will more than likely contract out with a private company, so drivers will still have to plug a meter.  Stump says, “I don't know how that's going to be replaced by a private contractor and done effectively and efficiently as a city employee.”

Stump says now it's in the employees hands to try and work something out with the city.

Time is running out for the PSOs.  Next week they'll vote on the city's last contract offer, with the budget expected to be released around the same time.  Stump says, “I hope they realize that they need to start funding the city in a proper manner so that they can keep the workforce that we have.”

The mayor's budget still has to go through public hearings and be approved by the city council, so this is nowhere near a done deal.  The mayor, who wouldn't comment on this story, is expected to release his budget proposal next week.