East St. Louis to lay off 17 firefighters when funds run out

News-DemocratSeptember 5, 2013 

— Seventeen firefighters who were hired with grant money have received notices that they will be laid off effective Sept. 30, unless city leaders find other means to pay them.

City Manager Deletra Hudson sent a letter to the firefighters dated Aug. 22 telling them that the city "has been forced to make some difficult financial decisions to meet its budgetary obligations." The News-Democrat obtained a copy of the letter.

The money came from a SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. The grant, which was used to pay the firefighters' salaries, has run out, forcing the city to send out the lay-off notices.

The grant, which was good for a year, ran out on March 30.

Hudson could not be reached for additional comment.

In the letter from Hudson, the firefighters were directed to turn in all keys, identification badges, gas cards and all other city property to the department director.

The letter also said that the firemen would be notified in writing of their rights "regarding continuation coverage for health, dental and vision insurance and any unused vacation days."

Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said the department has a total of 54 firemen, including the 17 who are slated to be laid off.

Mayor Alvin Parks said after the grant ran out in March the city found some extra money to keep the firefighters on the job until the end of September.

Parks acknowledged that 19 layoff letters were mailed out, but he said two of the firefighters' salaries were transferred to the general fund, so for now, only 17 may actually be laid off.

And, eight more firefighters could be back next year, once the new city budget kicks in, Parks said.

"Eight of the 17 will be brought back, effective Jan. 1, assuming that the budget we have tentatively planned actually gets adopted," Parks said.

"In essence, it is a reduction of firefighters, nine would be laid off," Parks said.

"I have complete confidence in the fire department administration. I am confident they will utilize creativity and resourcefulness to keep negative impact to a minimum," Parks said.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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