$700K question hangs in the balance

$700K question hangs in the balance

DANVILLE — Nearly three months into Danville's fiscal year, there are still no details on how the city will carve more than $700,000 out of the fire division budget — a reduction most aldermen agreed to in general months ago, with details to come later.

Since then, the International Association of Firefighters Local 429 and city administrators have been working on a side agreement to their new four-year contract that would deliver the savings the city wants.

Just before July 4, the two sides had an agreement in principle. Although neither side would divulge details, Local 429 officials have said the deal calls for fewer firefighters.

But that side agreement is not on the city council agenda for a vote by alderman at their meeting Tuesday night, and members of Local 429 still have not voted on the proposed side agreement.

Jerry Sparks, president of Local 429, said Friday that a review of the agreement by the union's attorney around July 4 revealed some language issues they've been trying to work out. He said they're still working toward a final document that can be voted on by both sides, and he's hopeful that can happen by early next month.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer would not comment, other than to say that there are still some unresolved issues between the two parties.

"And we are hopeful that those can be resolved quickly," he said.

In March, Eisenhauer proposed laying off 16 of 42 Danville firefighters after the city lost an arbitration decision related to their contract. Eisenhauer said that was the only way to balance the budget, considering rising costs in the fire division, including pension increases and additional expenses in the new contract awarded by the arbitrator, who sided with the union's request for a four-year contract, rather than the city's three-year proposal.

The arbitrator granted annual 2 percent raises in three years of the agreement and a 3 percent bump in one year.

Although members of Local 429 do not support cutting any firefighters — its ranks now stand at 40 — fire division representatives decided to work with city administrators to help find ways to make cuts in expenses rather than the city simply laying off 16 firefighters.

Over the next several weeks, two panels of firefighters and city administrators met, one making decisions on how to cut $700,000 out of the fire department budget — which led to the proposed side agreement — and the other panel hammering out details of closing one of the city's four fire stations.

Station No. 4 on East Main Street closed earlier this month.

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