Vanessa Renderman, Times of Northwest Indiana

vanessa.renderman@nwi.com

ST. JOHN | A St. John department head with 10 years experience is among three town employees rendered jobless Monday night.

Bob Pharazyn spent most of those 10 years as public works director and, in February 2008, became director of operations, tasked with overseeing the building and planning, public works and parks departments. Pharazyn told The Times on Monday that his job has been eliminated.

"I'm truly puzzled as to how this could've happened," he said. "The reality has not set in, but I guess (today), when I'm driving to the unemployment office, it will."

The Town Council convened in a special meeting Monday to adopt an ordinance for the terms of the employee severance package for Pharazyn, as well as building commissioner Tim Foley and a full-time clerk. Pharazyn and Foley will continue to receive pay and benefits through Dec. 31. The clerk will receive one week of pay for each year of employment, and the benefits will last the same amount of time.

Councilman Michael Forbes confirmed that full-time positions were reduced to part time for the code enforcement officer and animal control officer. Hours also were reduced for an administrative assistant.

After the council adopted the terms of the severance package, the meeting was adjourned without a chance for public comment or discussion among council members. Several residents were upset they did not have a chance to speak or ask questions about the terminations.

Resident Richard Clemons said he didn't understand why the town didn't explore other options before cutting employees.

His wife, Debbie Clemons, said she wanted to ask the council what its plan is, now that the building commissioner is not around to inspect buildings.

Foley, who stood outside Town Hall after the brief meeting, said that at 59 years old, he is less than a year away from retirement. Visibly upset, he said he hopes people "flood" the next Town Council meeting with complaints. He also held out hope that his job would be reinstated.

Town Manager Steve Kil last week recommended the restructuring of employee positions to save St. John $250,000, as the town tries to cut $530,000 from its $4.78 million proposed 2010 budget before it is adopted Oct. 15.

Less than 25 percent of Pharazyn's $82,000 salary came from the general fund. The rest was paid out of utility funds.

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