SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - We're learning new facts about the firings of seven Sullivan County Highway workers -- we're told those terminations should save the highway department more than $250,000.
For some of the seven Sullivan County Highway workers terminated Thursday, Friday was spent filing for unemployment and looking at options for the future. "We all applied for our unemployment. We're waiting to hear back from them, but as of now we have no income," says Matthew Stewart, who was terminated Thursday.
Rick Yates, another worker who was fired, abruptly said right now his biggest concern is having no health insurance, because he has a heart condition. "Without my insurance I don't know what I'm going to do. I can't afford to go to the doctors," he said.
We went to the interim Sullivan County Highway commissioner Bobbie Manning to dig a little deeper to see why the budget dictated the cut, and asked just how money he is expecting to save. "I'm figuring approximately $260,000 in the payroll budget [will be saved], plus benefits so you're looking at a whole lot more," adds Manning.
We asked Manning if the fired employees are able to still keep their insurance. "They're not eligible they get their vacation and all that paid out for unemployment," he told us.
Manning tells us he thought the best way to fire the employees was without warning so other workers wouldn't panic.
His handling of that situation isn't sitting well with some of the fired employees. Manning tells us he received a death threat Thursday. "Do I think [the man who made the threat] will do anything? I don't think that he will. I think it was just heat and frustration," he said.
Meanwhile, the laid-off workers say they have nothing to lose and plan to fight for their jobs. "I've always stood up for what I thought was right, and I'm going to fight this thing as long as I can. I'll get an attorney and see what I can do," adds Yates.
The employees spoke with Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey Thursday. Godsey told them his hands are tied, and he has no authority to interfere with the decision made by the county highway department.
Here are the facts on what's next -- Godsey is inviting workers to take their case to the full commission when it meets again on February 18.
Interim Commissioner Bobbie Manning tells us he doesn't expect any more cuts.
Manning also tells us he reported the death threat to the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.
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