City council passes budget 8 to 1

The city council votes yes to the mayor's budget plan.
The city council votes yes to the mayor's budget plan.
Only Councilman Willie Cook voted no.
Only Councilman Willie Cook voted no.
The budget approval puts city custodian Keith Peoples' future in doubt.
The budget approval puts city custodian Keith Peoples' future in doubt.

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It was a daunting task, slashing millions of dollars from Montgomery's city budget.

Daunting or not, Mayor Todd Strange did just that over the last several months. His plan went to the city council, and Tuesday night it was overwhelming approved.

Councilman Willie Cook, the lone 'no vote,' tells WSFA 12 News he agrees with cutting spending but says there has to be another way.

"I just cannot, in due conscience, vote on people losing their jobs just so they can be contracted out to someone else," he said.

By an 8 to 1 margin, the city council approved the plan to cut $9 million for the coming year. Only Councilman Willie Cook voted against the measure. Forty-five custodial workers' jobs hanged in the balance, and they were the reason Cook said he couldn't approve.

City hall is already collecting bids from private companies to take over the jobs those workers held, a move that could save City Hall more than a million dollars.

Mayor Strange said those affected workers have several options, including retirement, other jobs with the city, and he's suggested they even apply for the positions with the winning contractor.


With the council's decision there were bound to be those who were unhappy. Some, like Keith Peoples, are down right scared. "It just absolutely devastated me because I have kids to care for," he explained.

Peoples is a member of the city's custodial staff, and when the mayor's privatization plan goes into effect, each of the those workers' future comes into question.

After 18 and a half years on the job, Peoples says he's come too far to see it all vanish now.

"Disgruntled...temperamental...I'm just very short with people and that's out of character for me. I just have to apologize to people...I'm sorry. Little stressed right now."

He only has a year and a half to go before he can retire from the job, but he says he's mainly worried about his two kids, just 3 and 10 years old.

"I have no insurance. He has no insurance. Our daughters have no insurance," said Telese Peoples, Keith's wife. Both daughters suffer from asthma, and Mrs. Peoples says they just can't afford it. "We just lose too much."

She works part-time while going to school full-time, and says it's the "not knowing" that has her husband up at nights. "This is probably the biggest worry I've ever seen him have since the passing of his mom years ago."

Peoples says he understands why the mayor has to make cuts, but not with those workers who have seniority. "Who's to say that when it's privatized the people that's coming in...they're not going to be as loyal as we are," he asked. "And, they're lacking experience too. We're talking 18 and half years here. You don't get that in a day of training."

While he plans to apply with the eventually picked new company, he's still afraid the won't get any insurance for his family and his retirement benefits will evaporate as well.

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