EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KSDK) - Layoffs are coming to the East St. Louis Fire Department. More than a dozen fire fighters are set to be laid off because a federal grant used to hire many of them has expired.
"Earlier this year we did a big media campaign because they were talking about the layoffs," says East St. Louis Fire Fighters Union Local #23 President Brandon Walls. "But we actually have the layoffs in hand now at 19."
The department has a little more than 50 firefighters. Salaries for the ones being laid off were paid by the SAFER grant, which is through FEMA. That's expired and the money is gone. Brandon Walls says that means trouble.
"It increases our response times, of course. It puts the firefighters themselves in danger because I have to worry about in the event of doing my duties, if I need somebody to help me I have to worry about who's behind me to back me up," he said.
"I'm concerned about the people, the children, the older people. We need protection," says long-time East St. Louis resident Johnnie Ashford. "I don't know where the money is going to come from. I know money is a problem. It's a problem all over the country. But something has to be done."
Mayor Alvin Parks says the number is actually lower than 19 -- and could go down more.
"It will end up being 17 because two are going from the special fund to the general fund effective October 1," he says. "In addition, if the budget goes through the way that we would like for it to at this point, the layoff will be reduced to nine instead of 19."
He says the city and the Fire Department got creative with resources to delay these layoffs by six months. But the city can't spend what it doesn't have.
Mayor Parks says he feels horrible about the people who will lose their jobs. But at the same time, he says this is not a surprise for anyone involved.
The layoffs are effective at the end of this month.