Pension issues lead to cutbacks for East St. Louis Fire Department

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Public safety concerns rising in East St. Louis after city leaders announce that a firehouse will be temporarily closing and multiple firefighters will be laid off.

East St. Louis city leaders say on November 1, Engine House 425 at 17th and Central will temporarily close, resulting in nine East St. Louis firefighters being laid off.

The move will leave East St. Louis with just two firehouses and 34 firefighters.

“The concern is overall. Not only is it going to take longer to get to emergencies, we have fewer people. And this is a relatively busy city; there’s a lot going on,” said Brandon Walls, president of the East St. Louis Firefighters union.

The East St. Louis city manager and mayor say the moves are necessary because state revenues that would typically come to the city are being redirected by the state comptroller’s office to help fund the East St. Louis fire and police pensions.

We’re told the city has underfunded the pensions for years and they have a combined debt of nearly four million dollars. The city manager says a hiring freeze is also in place and that more cuts could soon be coming to other departments.

Residents who live near Engine House 425 are worried.

“I’m very concerned about the response times, the safety of our homes,” said resident Wanda McIntosh.

Walls says the last firehouse to close in East St. Louis was Engine House 424 back in 2014. He tells us that was supposed to be temporary but that engine house has never reopened.

Walls and residents fear the same thing will happen now.

“I worry about the safety of the public-at-large,” said resident Lovell Fennoy Sr.

A spokesperson for the state comptroller’s office says a law that took effect last year forces them to redirect state funding to pensions if claims are made about pension funding problems.

There is no specific timeline for reopening the firehouse.

Both the mayor and city manager declined our request for an on-camera interview.

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