At least 13 workers laid off in Waveland

After arguing budget proposals into the wee hours Thursday, Waveland officials reduced the size of their police force rather than disbanding it, and also laid off several city workers to help plug a budget hole of $180,000 a month.

Aldermen declined to farm out some police duties in the city to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, as Mayor David Garcia had requested, but they did reduce the size of the police force from 16 sworn officers down to eight full-time patrol officers and no investigators. The investigations will be handled by the sheriff’s office under the budget amendment.

After firing Police Chief James Varnell on Monday, the board also approved Kenny Hurt as the city’s new police chief. Hurt, a longtime Waveland resident, is taking the job after being the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department’s Chief Investigator. Hurt will make $50,000 a year. Varnell had made about $59,000 yearly, said City Attorney Gary Yarborough.

The board also approved laying off one worker in the animal shelter, four public works employees, and making four full-time positions in the fire department part time. The Board also instituted a 10 percent pay cut for the mayor, city comptroller, finance department, the city attorney and several other positions.

The board also voted to ask Hancock County to give the city a break on their payments into the county 911 fund, which pays for a central emergency dispatch system that serves all governments in the county. The break would save $10,000 a month, which is similar what Bay St. Louis currently receives, officials said.

All told, the changes amount to about $120,000 in savings each month. The city must function on that for the six weeks that remain in this budget year.

Now, the tough job of crafting next year’s budget lies ahead. The 2012 budget must be set by Sept. 15 under state law.

The Sun Herald follows this story in both print and online editions.