'We have a plan': East St. Louis to rehire some laid off firefighters

News-DemocratSeptember 28, 2013 

BND

— Eight of the 16 firefighters scheduled to be laid off Monday are expected to be rehired in January.

The Financial Advisory Authority has directed the city not to lay off the 16 firefighters on Monday, but Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. said the layoffs will go into effect.

"We have a plan. Our plan is what we're executing. We plan to lay them off effective Sept. 30," Parks said. "The FAA doesn't have the authority to tell us what to do with the city's money."

FAA Board Chairman Marvin Lampkin told city officials on Friday that the layoffs will have a negative impact on the city in terms of being able to cover the city safely and the city's ISO rating could be increased which would probably result in higher fire insurance for homeowners. Additionally, Lampkin said having less manpower could result in injury to the remaining 37 firefighters.

Brandon Walls, president of the local firefighters union, is frustrated because he feels the city is not keeping safety a priority for the firefighters and community.

Lampkin said the city has $500,000 left of the nearly $768,000 it collected from St. Clair County in protested property reimbursements.

FAA Budget Director Brandon Drake said that money is recorded in the city's general fund. He said the city submitted two general fund budgets this year that budgeted $200,092 of the nearly $768,000 it got from the county. "The city did not use any of those taxpayer dollars to attempt to save the firefighters from a layoff," Lampkin said.

Parks said that money has to go toward paying the backpay that the city owes police officers, firefighters and members of the Teamsters union.

Parks said the city will seek grant money to rehire additional firefighters in January to go with the eight the city plans to rehire.

Lampkin said he is concerned that once the layoffs happen, the city will get hit with another lawsuit, something the city cannot afford.

After the layoffs, there will be about seven firefighters on duty, resulting in there being only two firehouses open, Drake said.

Lampkin told city leaders the board's goal was to help the city do the right thing. He said he knew that city leaders felt as though they were very harsh on them and wanted them to go away. The authority is slated to dissolve in 2014. Parks said he has "always been looking forward to the day the FAA goes away."

"We are very capable of running our city. The state bailed us out and brought us back from the brink of bankruptcy," he said. "Instead of going bankrupt, the FAA was put in place. Now, it is time for them to go."

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

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