Danville mayor proposes 16 layoffs at fire department

Danville mayor proposes 16 layoffs at fire department

DANVILLE — Mayor Scott Eisenhauer proposed laying off 16 firefighters at a Tuesday night budget meeting as a result of a contract arbitration decision.

Eisenhauer, who described the cuts as a "harsh" plan, proposed reducing fire department personnel from 42 to 26 after learning earlier in the day that the city lost an arbitration decision on the firefighters' contract regarding minimum manning and salaries.

Currently, according to the contract with the fire department, there must be 13 firefighters on duty per shift. The city wants to reduce that number to 10 per shift. Officials said that would have allowed the city — gradually, through attrition — to reduce the overall number of firefighters and achieve long-term personnel cost savings, including reducing pension costs that have soared in the last decade. It prompted the city to create a public-safety fee charged to every residence and business to meet those expenses.

But the arbitrator's decision delivered Tuesday morning favored the firefighters' positions for a four-year contract with annual salary increases of 2 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and 2 percent (the city wanted only a three-year contract) and for retaining minimum manning at 13 per shift.

At Tuesday night's budget planning session with city aldermen, Eisenhauer said the arbitrator's decision adds another $1.3 million to the city's proposed expenses for next fiscal year, and then proposed that the only way to control costs in the fire department is to lay off 16 firefighters.

He said the city would still meet minimum manning requirements with only 26 firefighters by utilizing overtime, which would cost about $1.5 million a year.

There would be an additional $480,000 in unemployment costs the first year because of the layoffs.

But Eisenhauer maintained that this new plan would still result in long-term cost savings to the city, which already has $800,000 in firefighter overtime costs this year because of minimum manning requirements with its current roster of 43 firefighters.

The proposal sparked a long discussion among the mayor and aldermen that at times became heated.

Aldermen Sharon Pickering, Mike O'Kane and Rickey Williams Jr. questioned various aspects of the plan to cut that many firefighters, while Alderman Steve Foster supported it.

Williams asked if 26 total firefighters would be enough to keep the department safe at fire scenes as well as their overall mission of protecting the city from fires.

Pickering questioned whether the overtime and unemployment costs would really be more economical than employing enough firefighters to reduce overtime.

O'Kane told the mayor he wants to know how much firefighters would actually be working under those conditions and whether it would be legal.

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Just the truth wrote on March 08, 2017 at 8:03 am

That's what happens when you go out and blow your money on a 700,000 heavy rescue! Better get ready to call in the volunteers!!

Areyoukidingme wrote on March 08, 2017 at 8:03 am

By reducing the number of firefighters, you will also be reducing the amount of money they contribute into the pension fund as well. Wouldn't this reduction increase the pension obligation that the city of Danville is obligated to contribute? If you are planning on losing firefighters through retirement as well you will have more people drawing their pension amount and less money going in from active firefighters. I think the Mayor should figure the cost of the reduction in money going into the pension system and see if they can forecast next years city obligation before this takes effect.