Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 2:52 PM
More than 320 Cleveland workers are officially laid off - their jobs lost due to budget cuts that Mayor Frank Jackson says have forced his hand. Among them are more than 120 police officers, 80 workers in recreation, and 51 in the Fire Department. ideastream's Rick Jackson reports an effort to save the firefighters jobs continued through the holiday weekend, but also ultimately failed.
The president of the International Association of Firefighters’ Local claims every idea his union offered to keep 20 firefighters on the payroll was rejected by the city of Cleveland.
A deal would have opened the door for Cleveland to accept a $4.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That would have funded the salaries of 31 of the 51 laid off firemen for up to 30 months. But the grant required that the additional 20 be kept on as well, which the city said would have added roughly $3 million dollars to its’ recently-trimmed budget.
Cleveland city council members had urged accepting the grants, promising to find the additional money throughout the grant period. Firefighters Local 93 President Tom Lally argues the Fire Department had already found a way to save that money, but couldn’t convince the city during meetings held over the holiday weekend.
“Local 93 thought we found a solution to this economic crisis, and we were unable to come to a resolve, and firefighters will be laid off and the City of Cleveland will suffer a service loss within the Division of Fire.”
The Mayor’s Office ‘has’ released the letter that it sent to that reads in part:
“...the requirement that we not lay off any personnel during the grant period.... makes acceptance of these grants impossible unless they are modified.”
The city’s letter requests FEMA `reconsider’ allowing re-hiring of just 31 of the 51 laid off firefighters through the grant.
Late Tuesday afternoon there had been no response from Washington.
CLEVELAND’S LETTER TO FEMA:
Monday, May 30, 2011
I want to thank you for your patience and support as the City of Cleveland explored options to make the best and most effective use of SAFER Grant funding opportunities. As you know, our City is facing significant budget challenges as the direct result of State-imposed budget reductions. Those reductions will result in significant staffing reductions in our City workforce, including the Cleveland Division of Fire.
We spent the weekend working toward a concession agreement that would have enabled us to utilize the SAFER Grants. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in achieving mutually beneficial goals.
Therefore, at the end of the day today, Monday, May 30, 2011 the City of Cleveland is forced to layoff a total of 51 firefighters.
On behalf of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and his entire administration, I want to express our appreciation for FEMA’s assistance in restructuring our 2009 and 1010 SAFER Grants. The inability for the grants to cover all 51 positions and the requirement that we not layoff any personnel during the grant period, however, makes acceptance of these grants impossible unless they are modified.
I once again ask that FEMA reconsider granting authority for the City of Cleveland to use the grant funding to retain 31 firefighters from the list of 51 identified for layoff. In addition, because of the current financial situation and pending legislative issues at the State level that may impact our budget in the near future; I also ask that the provision mandating that we agree to a no layoff provision also be waived.
Regardless of your final decision, we sincerely hope this will not negatively impact our future FEMA grant opportunities. FMA grant support for our Division of Fire made it possible to equip and maintain an effective work force that strives to meet all national standards.
Thank you again for this opportunity and your support and assistance.
Martin L. Flask, Director
Cleveland Department of Public Safety
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