PLATTSBURGH -- City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak is befuddled as to why city crossing guards are allowed to collect unemployment benefits during summer months.

"I'm very surprised to learn they are collecting unemployment," said Kasprzak, who served as a councilor from 1990 to 1994. "They never did when I was on the council."

The seven city crossing guards have been collecting unemployment during the off-season since they began working, some as long as 11 years ago.

They work from September to the end of June during the school year. The guards earn between $7.50 and $10 per hour for a 20-hour work week.

Harold Girard, a crossing guard for 11 years, said he gets about $80 a week during the summer on unemployment.

Without it, the retired Girard said he would have a difficult time making ends meet.

"That keeps us going during the summer and keeps us interested in the job."

Girard said most of the guards are retirees collecting Social Security benefits.

The city pays unemployment benefits directly to the state, which, in turn, reimburses the workers.

It cost the city about $8,700 to cover the crossing guards' unemployment benefits for the summer.

City Chamberlain Richard Marks said the crossing guards have always had the ability to apply for unemployment benefits.

The mayor said no crossing guards ever applied for unemployment when he was a councilor. He vowed to look into the issue further.

"They are basically being paid during the summer months when they are not performing any duties," the mayor said.

"I don't agree with that, and I hope it does not continue, but before we make any decisions on this, we will collect all of the facts first."

Councilor Michael Drew (R-Ward 1) said maybe the city can find some work for crossing guards to do during the summer instead of having them collect unemployment.

The city is seeking a census to be done on all dogs, he noted, and perhaps the guards could do that in the summer.

The census idea was spurred by two recent pit-bull attacks that unnerved many city residents.

The city pays a total of about $35,000 a year for unemployment benefits for all city workers who are eligible.

Of that figure, about $10,500 of it this year is for the animal-control-officer position, which was cut from the budget this year in a cost-saving measure.

Girard said it would be unfair if unemployment benefits were taken away from crossing guards.

"If they take it away, I will quit and find something else to do," he said.

jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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