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Union members protest plan to cut Brookhaven workers

Spurred by Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko's call to hand out pink slips to 68 Brookhaven Town Hall workers and close town facilities, about 250 people filled Town Hall last night to voice their opposition to the plan.

Many of those in attendance were members of a local union that would lose members under the layoff plan.

Several residents also spoke against Lesko's proposal to cut services and shutter public spaces - particularly the Holtsville ecology site.

Holtsville resident Wayne Carrington, who coordinates an annual event at the ecology site featuring weather-predicting groundhog Holtsville Hal, said the site is a resource for the town's children.

The ecology site's zoo, where Holtsville Hal lives, would remain open under the 2011 budget, but Carrington said the entire facility should remain open.

Ecology site workers "don't go to work to do a job," he said. "They go to work because they love it."

Lesko has said the layoffs and cuts are necessary to avoid a tax increase.

The town's $260-million budget will be the subject of a Nov. 18 special town board meeting, when the board could approve - and potentially amend - the spending plan.

Lesko said the Nov. 18 meeting will be used to "address all budget matters" and consider alternative "ways to relieve the financial pressure we are all under."

Lesko has said the town needs to learn to be more frugal in the face of declining revenue. The town's workforce has increased by 18 percent since 2003, he has said.

Bill Walsh, president of CSEA Local 852, briefly addressed the board to ask Lesko to work with union officials to find an alternative to layoffs.

A crowd of union members cheered during Walsh's appearance before the board.

Walsh declined to comment after the meeting beyond saying that union officials are in a dialogue with the town.

Union members and other residents brought signs to the meeting. One of them read, "Please don't lay off my daddy."

Resident Ernest Hoffstaetter Jr. of Mastic Beach told the town that avoiding layoffs would be worth "a little tweak in the taxes."

The Nov. 18 meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville.

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