Bitter Battle Ends With 12 Firefighter Layoffs
KEN de la BASTIDE
KOKOMO, IN (May 28, 2009) The two highest ranking administrative officers of the Kokomo Fire Department have resigned their positions as a result of Mayor Greg Goodnight's decision to lay off 12 firefighters.
Chief Scott Kern, a 20-year veteran of the department, and Assistant Chief Randy Wilson submitted their letters of resignation Friday to Goodnight, according to city spokesman David Gavin. The resignations took effect on Sunday.
Both Kern and Wilson remain with the department. Gavin said Goodnight has named Deputy Chief Brad Myers as acting chief. Earlier this month, Goodnight ended the department's EMS service. Those duties were shifted to Howard Regional Health System and St. Joseph Hospital.
The layoff of the 12 firefighters was not unexpected. Jeremy Shaw, president of Local 396 of the International Association of Firefighters Union, said last week that since Goodnight took office on Jan. 1, 2008, the number of firefighters has declined from 121 to 100.
Kern said last week that Goodnight’s decision jeopardizes safety at fire scenes for members of the department.
Goodnight said Kern has mentioned resigning three or four times in the past few weeks.Kern could not be reached for comment.“What we have done is revamp the fire department,”
Goodnight said Tuesday. “We have eliminated two administrative offices, reducing that number from eight to six and eliminated ambulance transport, which had 15 jobs associated with the service but only eliminated 12 positions.
“We have the same number of people at each station and truck and the same number of stations,” he continued.
Goodnight said he met three times with officials of Local 396 to provide them an opportunity to help find a solution. He said the union recommended closing Kokomo Beach and the Senior Citizens Center. Goodnight said that would not provide enough savings.
“This is an attempt by firefighters to hold onto their benefits,” Goodnight said. “The union president also suggested a trash fee, which the citizens of Kokomo can’t afford.”
A pamphlet being distributed by the firefighters union is urging residents to speak out against the cuts in the fire department.
“Hardest hit will be the southeastern and southwestern parts of the city,” the pamphlet reads, “which is troubling since high-occupancy buildings such as the Walnut Creek Apartments, Westbrook Apartments and new library are located in this areas.”
The pamphlet further states with the planned annexation of 14 square miles over the next two years the fire department’s resources will be stretched thinner, which could mean longer response times.
Goodnight said the pamphlet is not accurate in that the Kokomo Fire Department already provides service to 7 square miles of the annexation area that are in Center Township.
“When I eliminated the two management positions, the union said it created a safety issue,” Goodnight said. “When we eliminated ambulance transport, the union said it created a safety issue.
“They say it every single time,” he said. “We have less people in the front office and no people providing ambulance transport. Everything has stayed exactly the same."
Rescource: Kokomo Tribune