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60 civilian layoffs averted at Kirtland Base

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More than 60 civilian maintenance workers at Kirtland Air Force Base narrowly avoided losing their jobs this week after base officials secured funding to avoid the layoffs, contractors and base officials said Thursday.

Among those who nearly lost their jobs were several disabled workers with the nonprofit LifeRoots.

The planned cuts, which would have gone into effect Wednesday, were a result of the automatic, across-the-board “sequestration” cuts triggered by Congress’s inability to reach agreement on a federal deficit-cutting plan.

“We did receive some funding that was spread across the base maintenance contract, custodial contract, and solid waste contract,” base spokeswoman Marie Vanover said.

“Because of that funding, we are maintaining the same level of service. Specific information about any layoffs would have to be directed to the contractor,” Vanover said.

Mike Cuddihee, joint venture project manager for Chugach Management Services – which has a multimillion-dollar maintenance contract at the base – said an estimated 50 jobs were rescued at the last minute when base officials announced that sufficient funds had been secured to avoid the layoffs.

“We were working some contract modifications to reduce our level of service to the Air Force, and magically at the eleventh hour they said they’ve money to reinstate the full contract,” Cuddihee said Thursday. “So we didn’t have any contract reductions.”

The layoffs would have included “carpenters, electricians, engineers, painters, you name it,” Cuddihee said.

Joining Cuddihee in a sigh of relief was Kathleen Holmes Cates, CEO and president of LifeRoots, a nonprofit that provides services for the disabled.

LifeRoots and another nonprofit, Adelante Development Center, collectively employ between 50 and 60 disabled custodial workers at Kirtland, Cates said.

Before the reprieve was announced, LifeRoots was looking at the loss of the equivalent of nine full-time employees, she said.

Because not all of those workers are full time, Cates said, the layoffs would have affected more than just nine workers.

“It was wonderful, wonderful news,” to hear that the jobs were saved, she said.

Cates said base officials worked closely with LifeRoots to “find the best way to handle a difficult situation.”

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